A Belated Happy New Year

It's Saturday, late morning. I've just gotten in from a savagely soggy walk through my little neighborhood forest. Native Oregonians who live west of the Cascades will proudly tell you that we don't use umbrellas, that umbrellas are for tourists and will mark you as such in a crowd. But in every seasoned Willamette Valley resident's closet you will find rain gear, and those of us in the know love our Keen boots. I let my hair hang long under my fleeced beanie and strode under the downpour this morning in a kind of green-soaked trance. I came home to a warm fire built by The Machinist and a pot of French press waiting on the counter. I shed my waterpoofs and shook them out to dry on the covered porch, slipped on some wooly slippers and opened my bindery studio door. If ever I feel down or discouraged, spending some time in the grey morning light here puts things in perspective immediately. Especially on a rainy Saturday morning.

Before today, and despite intermittent bursts, the weather in Western Oregon has been unusually dry and clear. While in some ways it feels like a balm, our mountains are bereft of snow, and that's troublesome. There's the little matter of our skis getting dusty, and the much larger issue of not having the snowpack required to prevent summer drought. We're all waiting and hoping that February and March will dump our mountains with powder. While patiently keeping my eyes on the Cascade snow levels, I've been exploring the Coastal range area, just a quick jaunt away from my North Portland doorstep. I found a tiny mountain lake, small and barely noted on my topographical map, where I discovered more beaver activity than I had ever, anywhere else in Oregon. It looked as if they were busy felling all of the timber along the frozen lake shore.

So here we are, beginning the last half of January. Yesterday evening ended my first official week back to work after my three or so weeks of down time, and it was a doozy of a work week to start off the new year. On Friday I finished a weeklong print job that was somewhat enormous and consuming for my little studio's capabilities. It's a wonderful client, and I love taking on projects that stretch my abilities, patience, and technical limitations; but they can be nerve-wracking as well, with lots of speculating on how the next step will pan out. After all, I made it through the week and that job, and it turned out fantastically.

For every tense and uncertain job, there's one that just makes it all so much sweeter. I got to play with these little vintage woodcuts on press this week, as well. I'm sure this client's business cards will be showing up on my new website soon - it's looking like early February for the launch!

While I have yet to set anything in stone, I've been reflecting on my New Year's intentions. This month marks my one-year anniversary of full self-employment, and I have much to be thankful for and much to plan for the future. While I don't have my own thoughts in thorough order, I came across this just last night in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. Here she is reflecting on the end of summer and her return to Smith College in a matter of a few days, for her Sophomore year.

"God, how I love it all...Suddenly the turn table switches to a higher speed, and in the whizzing that ensues I lose track of my identity. I act and react, and suddenly I wonder, "Where is the girl that I was last year?...Two years ago? What would she think of me now?" 

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I feel so fortunate to have been able to take some time away from my studio these few weeks. Indeed, I did take on some client work while I was technically on vacation. My alma mater needed a New Year's card, and I printed some last minute packaging for a new small business in Portland. But overall my goal was achieved in that I did not start new things. I spent the holiday season with friends and family. I spent some time in the woods. I spent four days helping my mom move from her apartment to her new house. I did not labor over plans, goals, or the day to day. I stayed away from my computer, and I let my studio fall silent aside from wrapping presents and staging piles of bedroom detritus while we renovated our upstairs.

As for that? Well, The Machinist and I own a little cottage built for WWII ship builders in 1943. It's a humble home with not much frill. On our deed our house is referred to as a Cape Cod but that reference makes me think of slightly grander stuff than our house is made of. What our house lacks in grandiosity, it makes up in good bones. The area we use as our bedroom is in fact the attic, with pitched walls and dormer windows. One half is our functional bedroom, and the other half is The Machinist's office.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to pull everything out of there and to create a clean slate. We pulled carpet, patched cracking ceiling walls, spend one full day sanding the wooden plank floors (surprisingly beautiful plain but solidly built fir - we didn't know what to expect when we pulled the carpet, we just decided to hold our breath and hope for the best), another full day cleaning, and from there we slapped on several coats of fresh, clean paint. I had to snap a picture to represent the clean emptiness of the back corner where J will be able to set up his music gear and to create a little recording area. It will never be this serene again, but for now it's oh so refreshing to wake up to a bright new room, in a bright new year.