Friday means I've already been back from vacation....for ALMOST A WEEK??!!

Time flies whether you're having fun or not -- 
certainly proof of that adage.  

And I will confess that while many things have been done this week, there is still a mail pile rendering it almost impossible to use the kitchen counter in any truly meaningful way.  But that's what the weekend will be for, right?

After I move the pile so I can bake some chocolate chip cookies that is, because I've been dieting so faithfully this week trying to make some headway against my vacation sins, I've earned a dozen-sized reward . . .

And when I move that pile to bake, I will most likely forget about it until something happens like I miss the party for which there is an unopened invitation there . . .

Do I sound like this could be familiar territory?
Draw your own conclusions.

ANYWAY -- I was having a conversation with someone about how Facebook (and all things social media, really) may be the new small-town America, and I've continued thinking about it.

Aunt Lillie's house, American Fork, Utah

As a child waking up in Aunt Lillie's house, you could rely on the fact that Lillie would be on the phone.  She had her morning circle of friends to call every day, and I remember laying in bed listening to her end of those conversations and trying to piece together the bits of gossip into some kind of plot line.

Then when she got to work at her shop, people would stop by all day long to "chew the fat" and swap gossip about anything and everything that might have happened since they last talked, which was very recently.  Everyone knew who I was, and I was just a weekend visitor.  But then everyone knew my mother, and her parents, and and and . . .

 . . . a bad place to try to hide, but a good place if you really wanted a sense of community.

My generation seemed to move away from that way of living, by and large, and I have not stayed in contact with any but a very small handful of friends from my youth (until Facebook, of course).

Plus my own family has moved a lot, so our roots have been shallow and mostly contained to a pretty small plot of ground, easy to transplant should it become necessary.

Now I am watching my children remain in contact with just about everyone who has ever been in their lives, and I'm also re-establishing some old contacts of my own . . . and it feels good.  Because I notice that we suddenly know the kinds of insignificant details about people's lives that Aunt Lillie might have been able to tell you after her morning phone calls were completed.

Who stopped by for dinner last night, or what new recipe they tried, or what was making them cranky on any given day, or where they found a great price on blueberries -- it's pretty much all there for the picking.  And I guess we'd gotten far enough away from it as a culture to be hungry for it again.

So I've been very pleased this week  to receive a variety of notes from previously-unknown blog readers (who so kindly stepped out of the woodwork!) because it makes my circle seem just that much wider.

Friends in the virtual realm comprise 
a kind of personal "small town" 
that we can take with us 
wherever we happen to go.  

So to all my Small Works friends, who take the time to reach out to me
(to ask a question, or make a comment, or just wave and say hello) . . . thank you!

I didn't even know I missed you, 
but now I know you're here, 
my neighborhood feels just that little bit friendlier . . .

Happy Weekend! 




Someone insinuated recently that 
I have too many rules.  

I replied that they are not my rules
(my favorite Mr. Monk-ism) 
but it got me thinking . . .

It might explain why I am so drawn to characters -- almost all of my closest friends could be classified that way --  people who operate a little outside most boxes, who seem to have their own code of rules for what's normal, or appropriate, or should be expected.

I've always blamed it on being raised by Aunt Lillie, who was a certified character, or the fact that I'm a writer and therefore always scouting for new material, but it could just be that I feel a little boxed in by all my rules and wish I could shed them.

Anyway, it all constitutes a fairly lengthy introduction to:


and have from the moment I first laid eyes on them.

Ed Larson is a Santa Fe artist who operates in absolutely no one's box but his own.  And his own box is little more than that -- a sort of shed located near the top of Canyon Road and literally bursting at the seams with Ed and his creativity.

Before I ever got to Ed's place, I saw a hand-painted sign that said, "See Ed Larson -- The Gaugin of Canyon Road" and I knew I had to investigate the claim.  When I actually set foot in his yard/studio/shed/gallery, I was hooked forever.  I was immediately drawn by his folk-art-like, quasi-outsider style, having been a student of folk and outsider artists for years.  But I was puzzled as to why he did not appear in any of the materials I had studied.

I guess it's because Ed is a trained artist, technically speaking, and so he is disqualified.  But Ed has managed to bury his art training under so much life-training, it informs his work only in the most subtle and perfect way.

People call him "Wonderful Ed" because, as he tells it, every time he finishes a piece someone will say, "That's wonderful, Ed."  And I would have to agree with them.

The sign above his door says, "Jesus said buy folk art."  If you ask Ed where he obtained that quote, he may explain to you that it is in Ephesians . . . "Not everybody knows that, but I've studied the bible."

Ed Larson's art explores the complete range of his life experience:  there are western themes, Navy service during the Korean war themes, small-town America themes (Ed hails from Joplin, MO), and a whole lot of political themes that leave little doubt as to which way Ed leans.

He seems to do everything, his paintings and sculpture flowing together in a way that sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish the two. He also has a large body (400!) of what he calls "picture quilts."  Ed came up with the idea to make quilts, but because he didn't sew, he approached a quilter with his pattern and color scheme. Many collaborations later, one of his quilts is in the Smithsonian, and another was chosen one of the 100 best quilts of the 20th century.  

We own 3 pieces of Ed's work.  One of my favorites was actually painted on a palette (very used) that belonged to a well-known Santa Fe painter, a friend of Ed's whose statue lives in a park northeast of the plaza.  The artist was gone before I ever discovered Santa Fe, but I am delighted that my collection includes a piece with a little bit of Ed's personal history attached.

It is one of my happy things, a portrait of Ed on horseback that, like all of his work, tells just a little piece of his story.  There are pieces of his story in all of his work, and he will gladly reveal the context to you if you are lucky enough to be looking at Ed's work with Ed sitting nearby.  (And he usually is, working away and listening to whatever happens to be on NPR.)

Here's a link to a video in which Ed tells all about his work
and the fascinating life that inspires it:

But I have long dreamed of owning a bigger piece of Ed's world, and I am more than happy to report that all I had to do was stay married for 30 years to have that dream realized . . . 

(Well, stay married to someone who loves Ed's work as much as I do, which already got us off on the right foot, making the 30 year goal much more readily attainable -- just sayin'.)

We first saw our piece hanging 
on the outside wall of Ed's place . . .

and were drawn to it immediately.  Because it featured 3 girls (so do we!) and was a campy take-off on a wild-west show poster (remember my Bonanza affair? she's a sucker for western camp!) and it was signed "wonderful Ed" with a little portrait of him, and carried a large 2011 (our 30th year!) as well as the title "Positively No Disappointment" . . . all resulting in the perfect commemorative piece.  Wouldn't you agree?

Best of all, it's scheduled to arrive in Hinckleyville . . . LATER TODAY! 

And I, for one, can't wait. 
A perfect souvenir from a perfect trip. 
Created by just the man for the job.  
It doesn't get much better than that.

Thanks, Ed.  
That's wonderful.

(and talk about timing -- there's the doorbell. Could it be? .......EEEEEK!)


There's no place like home (although it's just possible there's someplace better) . . .

Most of what I do during the week after a vacation -- 
when I'm not busy dealing with things that have piled up, i.e. mail, laundry, bills, pounds --
is say things that begin with:

"Last week at this time, we were _______." 

That sentence can be finished in any one of a thousand ways, such as "sharing that amazing sandwich under the cottonwoods near Ghost Ranch..." or "much warmer/so full/crazy happy."

I'm sure it gets annoying, but I like to relive every moment, mainly as an avoidance technique to help me pretend I don't really have to face the plethora of annoying chores du jour.

And in this case . . .
it was definitely a vacation to remember!  

Every second was one to savor -- a feast for the eyes, the mind, the soul, and of course the stomach. In fact, I believe I have perhaps set a new scientific bar for the amount of weight one small-ish woman can gain in an 8 day period of time.  Let's just say that pancakes and sopaipillas may or may not have been enjoyed in the same meal....more than once.  

But dining episodes like that are just one of the things that makes New Mexico the adopted home-away-from-home for this Minnesotan's heart.

There's something about the bluer-than-blue sky that makes me want to fly, and I feel just happy enough within its bright embrace 
to believe it's possible . . .

We have a goal to drive the entire state, and added a lovely new route in addition to enjoying some of our old favorites this time.  For your future travel reference, the Jemez mountains are spectacular in September!  We put over 1200 miles on our trusty rental car during the week, and only wished there had been time to log a few more....

First, of course, there was a stop at our favorite quirky used-cd store for a big heap of new music, then a stop to buy a cooler, then a stop at the Santa Fe Whole Foods (which is, for some reason, better than any Whole Foods on the planet -- there are others who agree with me on this point -- and it could have something to do with the guy roasting fresh green chiles in the parking lot) . . . to fill our cooler with delicacies of all kinds.

Then we just let the scenery unspool itself, experiencing every second through as many of our senses as we could involve in the process . . . 

Near Ghost Ranch

 Our favorite spot at the top of New Mexico

 Brazos Cliffs

In the Jemez Mountains

 Battleship Rock

 Susan, outstanding in her field . . . and high atop the Sandia Crest

Because it was a vacation 
to mark our 30-year milestone,  

we decided to buy a commemorative piece of art.  

(Note: Sending Susan to Santa Fe with the charge to find a piece of art is a somewhat risky proposition -- sometimes her decider gets overwhelmed and there is enough good art in New Mexico to potentially leave her whimpering in a corner in a wide-eyed and quivering fetal position)

Luckily, in this case, we knew our piece the moment it introduced itself to us.  There were a few moments of hemming-and-hawing, of course, while we considered other pieces that were so so so wonderful, but in our hearts we knew.....and once the decision was made, we made a literal screaming U-turn on our way to a hike in the Pecos Wilderness Area that was never realized, because we had to stake our claim on our perfect piece before it introduced itself to someone else.

But I'll tell you about that next time. 
The art and the artist deserve a post of their own. 

Today is for remembering all the other things 
that made it so hard to want to leave . . .

green chile

red rocks

blue sky

pink sunsets

purple sage

golden chamisa

. . . and one happy, happy camper.

(Okay, I'll admit that home is good, too.  But home would be improved by someone delivering a fresh-from-the-fryer basket of sopaipillas to the table with every meal.  There is a place on earth, after all, where it happens.....and once you discover that secret, you may never really bring your whole heart home.)



Small Works is brought to you today by the letter F..... and by the number 9.


F because it's Friday
for starters, dear friends! 

And also because Fall definitely arrived here this week -- my walk this morning required both my trusty black cap and my magic gloves -- a sure sign that the times they are a changin'. 

But mostly the letter F because I'm here to say farewell....

I celebrated a whopper of an anniversary last week (30! EEEK!)

The festivities included a fabulous dinner with the family . . .

Although I was not aware that 30 is the "pearl" anniversary,  Chelsea proved that I've been successful in teaching her some useful skills when she presented us with a giant papier mache pearl!

The fact that she knew instinctively how to create such an object (that looks as if I made it myself) made me smile.  If you know the story of my career in craft, papier mache is where it all began.
So it was truly a fun gift!  (Her father may take more pride in the fact that she has a master's degree and is pursuing a JD, but I happen to feel it's equally important to know your way around a studio....)

F is also for forgo . . . . as in we didn't buy any gifts because we are leaving in the morning for a
fabulous trip to . . . wait for it . . . my favorite destination . . .
forever my first choice . . .

Santa Fe!

It's been far too long -- I'll hardly feel like a native the way I once did, but I'm hopeful that Gabriel's will have readied a table and the punch-bowl sized guacamole for my personal fiesta!

Small Works will return in 9 days . . .
fatter and happier and hopeful that the driveway isn't already full of snow.

Adios, amigos!
(See you September 26!) 


 [Oops!  I almost forgot..... 
If you need an inspirational fix
check out my favorite find 
from blog world this week at Side Trips....]



 I'm always happy . . . 
Sometimes I just forget.

-- Jennifer Egan 
from A Visit From the Goon Squad

Love those words. Me all over.  And sometimes it's kinda easy to forget.  Take this morning, for instance, when I went trying on jeans.  Sure, that's just one step above swim suits on the hell-o-meter, but still, it shouldn't require preparatory meditation.

I guess that's why this ad particularly 
rankled me when I came across it 
while innocently browsing a 1951 McCalls:  




We had a special family dinner the other night and one of the girls came on her way to a wedding, and therefore was dressed to the nines.  She looked mahvelous, and of course we all told her so.  Gushed, is more like it.  Then she fluttered her eyes a bit in an uncharacteristically girly way and said, "Thank the Spanx." 


This from the daughter who not only looks most at home in a backward baseball cap but also is the daring master of all things wheeled?  The girl who went on a shaving boycott for 4 years of art school to protest society's double standards?

Of course, the other two immediately jumped in to discuss the wonders of spandex, but also, in slightly lowered tones and with annoyed sideways glances, explained: "Mom doesn't like those things....Mom is morally opposed to them....Mom has a problem...."

Something like that.

My shapely, and yes, slightly-improved daughter (looking fabulous in her form fitting dress) merely replied, "What?! . . . They make me feel good about how I look."

Hmmmm.  I'm flummoxed. 

I don't think it is necessarily because I came of age in the 1970's that I have a problem with things designed by someone else to mold me into something more acceptable.  And I'm all for girls feeling good about themselves.  I guess I just worry about some of the other things that we got rid of when we made bonfires of our foundations the first time around.

And I suppose I don't really see signs of any of those things creeping back in.  None of my girls are tied to a kitchen, for instance, and clean laundry is not a status symbol for them but rather an unwelcome chore born of dire need and absolute last resort.

So I guess I'll just live and let live.

But be warned, girls of this generation .... 
some of us are watching you.

And we'll step in if we need to.

And for heaven's sake, be happy and feel good about yourselves no matter what size your jeans are . . . she says on the same day she almost did a dressing-room dance because apparently jean sizes keep increasing so she can wear the same size she wore last year . . . .

It's a complicated world.



Banks -- well, banks and insurance companies --

are sucking my will to live today.  If you missed last Tuesday's drawing, here it is:

That's me giving bank-guy a piece of my mind.  And it expresses the continuing saga better than I can in words.

The details! 
The fine print!
The utterly ridiculous minutiae of every kind!
Just when I think I've jumped through every last hoop, another presents itself. 

Today is a day to be glad we're blog buddies.  Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

I am by nature a detail-oriented person -- my work is all about the little stuff -- so one would think that I have an endless amount of patience for them.  But I guess the fact is, I'm very picky about my details, and the ones that don't make the cut on my list of importance only annoy me.  

So since I'm busy with forms, forms, and more forms and an avalanche of accompanying annoyances, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit this post from 1.07.09 -- sort of a "Note to Self", so to speak:


I love this cartoon . . .  although I had to think about it for a couple of days to figure out what about it made me stop and think (besides the fact that it's by L.K.Hanson, who is one of my favorites).

Here's what I've come up with:

1) It's about the future, and for a worrier such as myself, the future is always there. We have quite a few members of the worrier club in my family -- we lovingly refer to our malady as the "what ifs" -- a disease we would gladly be rid of if we could just figure out how to do it. So to say "I never think of the future" is a revolutionary, mesmerizing and utterly foreign idea to me.

2) How did someone with Albert Einstein's vision never think of the future? Doesn't vision imply seeing ahead? This may occur to the rest of you immediately, but I had to mull it over a little before I came to this conclusion:

Albert Einstein never thought about the future because he was too busy trying to understand the things that were going on around him. Going on around all of us, for that matter.


His vision involved looking around and then understanding what he was seeing. He must have been so busy concentrating on "now" that he didn't have time to waste on "what ifs". Wow.

And of course then I remembered that Maira Kalman (one of my other favorite purveyors of ideas married to pictures) said something about Einstein, so I looked it up:

Maira Kalman

Click on it so you can read it -- you'll say, "Susan, that's not really about Einstein at all -- it's about Johannes Kepler." You're right, of course, but isn't it marvelous? And Johannes Kepler was so busy looking around the 1605-ish night sky (without a telescope) that he was able to figure out the elliptical orbit of Mars.

I guess I've never really 
looked closely at anything . . . ?

I know you've met her before but she felt she needed to stop by again and remind us to start using our imaginations in some useful ways and stop using them to imagine all the awful things that might, but almost certainly won't, happen.

What if my imagination were 
100% available for me because 
it wasn't busy doing useless things? 
Imagine. . .


Just when I was certain daytime television had become an intellectual wasteland that was surely a precursor to the demise of western civilization, Jim Carrey said something on a talk show that made me actually get out a pencil and jot. The gist of what he said was this:

Always say yes to what's coming, 
because what's coming is going to be awesome.

That's how we keep going forward, isn't it? By saying "yes" to what's coming and then looking (and sometimes working) to understand the awesomeness of it?

Maira Kalman

But let's not walk too fast.

Hollywood is full of surprises because in a movie trailer I saw recently there was a line about how you can only understand life backward but you have to live it forward. I thought that was rather brilliant, but now I've decided it is outshone by the brilliance of concentrating on here and on now. You'll be forced to move forward soon enough.

When you're busy living your life on the road to somewhere else, it gets pretty tiring. Perhaps it's better to unpack the suitcase and look around at the tourist attractions right in the room you're in.

Yes, you. Get off the bus at the next stop. Do a little sightseeing for a change. That's probably the only way to avoid speeding right past things like the Theory of Relativity.

 * * *

(Which means I should probably get out from under this pile of paperwork and step outside to appreciate some of the finer details of this last-sunshiny-late-late-summer day, because our demise is scheduled for later this week.  Happy Monday!



It's Complicated . . .


There's a saying in our family: 

"Is two too many?  Is ten enough?" 


It applies perfectly in any situation involving aesthetic decision making -- or cupcakes. And one of my biggest challenges as an artist (and as a person -- let's be honest) is keeping it simple.

Rather than "less is more", my natural tendencies seem to run a bit toward the Victorian:  
too much is never enough.  

Perhaps because I know the magic lies in knowing when to stop,
that's always the hardest decision I make.

I glory in the piling up of complications 
of every sort.  If I could pronounce 
the name James in any different 
or more elaborate way 
I should be in favor of doing it.

-- Henry James

There's a movie scene I love in which one character asks another what he thought of the LENGTHY manuscript he's given him to read, and his reply is, "You didn't make any choices."

Editing, editing . . . art is really all about editing. 

Adjusting the viewfinder to show exactly what is essential, and not one bit more:  distill, condense, concentrate, cut down, clarify, express, extract, purify, refine, trickle, trim....and thereby get to the meaning.

When it's my turn to order at a restaurant, my family does a collective eye-roll.  It's very rare that I don't have to tack on a customization of some kind to my order, a "make sure it's well done" or "sauce on the side, please" or "cheese on the enchilada but not the burrito"... I always feel like I've really accomplished something when I can just say, "I'll have the chicken parmigiana."  Period.

So it was a welcome challenge for me this week
to create a piece for which one of the requirements was simplicity.  And luckily this simple project came along  just in time to provide my initial post-surgical return to stitching.

I will admit it was hard for me -- I spent as much time taking things off as I did putting things on -- I kept wanting: 

more stitching, 
more embellishment, 
a border, 
more in the picture . . .

. . . but I was working under strict parameters.  
Always a great exercise for a person such as myself.

And actually, it required the perfect amount of stitching to get my fingers working again.  Threading needles the second day was a bit easier than the first, and that little progress was enough to put a smile on my face.  Hopefully the trend will continue, because there's something of a work pile-up cluttering my to-do list and complicating . . . well . . . everything.

But for now, Friday's here!

And whether your weekend 
finds you enjoying the simple 
pleasures of home or 
seeking adventure elsewhere, 
I hope it finds you . . . simply happy!

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