Squam by the Sea – Part Two

My time by the sea doesn’t seem so long ago, though it has been over a month and a half now. I am just rolling with how long it takes for pieces to fall into place.

My first class was with Alena Hennessy. I had heard her read from her book at Squam in the Spring, and my mother-in-love had taken her class last Autumn, so I was familiar with her gentle, beautiful spirit. I so looked forward to the opportunity to get to know her better and I was not disappointed. She almost didn’t make it. Alena was in a terrible car accident on her way to Squam. Somehow, miraculously, she walked away with minor physical injuries. And, she managed to continue her journey to Corolla, NC and teach two classes! It speaks volumes to her giving spirit, her resiliency, her strength that she arrived and was there, fully present for us, her students. I am so grateful for her, and for her gentle guidance.


In her class we spent some time with ourselves, meditating, and listening to our inner voices, journaling, sketching, delving in. With some brief instruction on how to use my new favorite medium, India Inks, we were given full freedom to explore and paint and glue and glaze on our wooden boards. I was pulled right into the process. Letting my intention guide my progress, I simply put down color, put down an image, glued down some fibrous paper. I was so into it I didn’t want to break for lunch, just grabbed a quick bite, and headed right back down to the classroom. I have never been so happy with a painting in my life. Not because it is something beautiful for others to see, but because I see my intention in it. It communicates to me just what I wanted it to. Articulation. I value it so highly.


My second class was split over Friday and Saturday and was with Susannah Conway. This has been a year of getting to know my Nikon digital SLR. I started with Amy Gretchen’s class in the Spring and got my footing with the technical stuff. With Amy’s guidance and some practice I have started to feel like I remember how to use my camera as a tool to capture beauty. I participated in Stacy de la Rosa’s Soulecologie course in the Summer which gave me prompts and practice for seeing beauty in everything.


Susannah’s class was beautiful punctuation, bringing all the pieces together. My classmates ranged from some simply using their iphones to those who had brought three or four different cameras, old and new. Talking with them and seeing through their eyes was, in itself, a valuable education. Susannah took me to the next level. She gave us pointers on perspective and using light and framing, and gifted us little cards with prompts like “shadow/light playful/serious” and set us free. That permission, and pulling those prompts out of my pocket as I strolled along the sea…it opened something up in me. I was so thrilled with the images I was capturing. Again finding a way to articulate my intention, almost effortlessly. It just came from my gut.

faces “perspective reality/fantasy”

Both of these teachers helped me open up, broke down some old barrier I had between my vision and my creative action. They each helped me set intention, and gave me the freedom and the gentle nudge to let the medium take me to it. The result was a truly glorious sensation of fully enjoying both the process and the creation itself. With this new-found satisfaction I submitted both my painting and a slideshow of images to the “gallery” we had on our last night. For the first time I can remember, I didn’t need people to love it, or like it even. That hope just wasn’t part of the equation somehow. This time, it was just pure me out there on the table, slideshowing across the screen of my laptop. And, probably not surprisingly to you all, people did like it! I don’t know whether I was just that I began to HEAR people telling me they liked it, where before I would have shrugged off their praise like it was an ostentatious fur coat, or if my work was actually connecting with more people. Probably a bit of both. Either way, it has changed me – this knowing what I am capable of. It is utterly refreshing.

Run “selfies/people moving/still” ')}

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Squam by the Sea


The great sea has set me in motion ,
set me adrift,
moving me like a weed in a river.

The sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside of me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy.

-Uvavnuk (Mid-19th-Early 20th Century)

Too much of a good thing? I suppose this concept applies to many aspects of life. Wine, brownies, and Etsy come to mind as things in which I can easily over-indulge. However, Squam Art Workshops is not one of those things. I did wonder about that, as I packed up for my fourth Squam in two and a half years. But I was quickly, and summarily, put in my place.

This time I attended Squam by the Sea. All the magic transported from the lakeside to the seaside. Sparkling in the luminous Michelle Madden Smith‘s ‘hood, she noted that in the Outer Banks of North Carolina we are “dangling on the edge of the Earth”. Her words are heartbreakingly evidenced by the devastation Hurricane Sandy has left in her wake. It is situated on a strand of land spit out into the Atlantic, the sea tearing endlessly at the eastern shore, constantly altering the boundary between yourself and it. The bay at your back. For me it is breathtakingly powerful to be so precariously balanced.


I traveled down to Squam with two good friends I met at my first Squam. Though we see each other infrequently, we picked right up where we left off. Effortless friendship. We stopped at knitting sisters on our way down and my friend and I decided to stretch our novice knitting skills and take on this project. For the remainder of the weekend we alternated between cursing “make-one-lefts” and our own fumbling fingers and feeling like knitting rockstars. Thankfully we had a few friends around to help us when we got stuck, and plenty of wine to lift our spirits. Still a work in progress for me, and it is addictive.

On our first evening, we received a beautiful gift. The first of many – this one tangible. Tracey Lee Duncan had us each pull a necklace out of a small paper sack. She made each one individually and every one was totally unique. Each had a word or two inscribed on it and somehow, magically, that word seemed to perfectly fit its new owner. The color schemes almost always matched what the person was wearing. They became a way to instantly connect to your neighbor, to the people you met in your classes, to a stranger passed on the path. Just as quickly as that, we all had a secret decoder.

My necklace reads “thoughtful”. It is a gift I cherish.

And there were so many amazing souls, once again. 80 creative, wide-open hearts. My people. Some I’ve known for a while now, some I just met, all have left a mark on my heart. Being among them gives me purpose. We are all vulnerable. We are all valued. In that space blooms so many wonderful things. Affirmation of self, creative works of art, friendship, compassion, healing. And all the while the sea, holding us.

Oh, and I happened to take some classes, too. I’ll get to that in my next post, as this one has languished long enough.

Till then.

feet ')}

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