Three months ago we visited this little fruit and veggie shop for the first time. Yesterday we visited for the last time. Today is the last day of our first European adventure.

fruit stand a

I’m not really sure how I feel. We’ve been living and traveling on this side of the world for 9 months now. We made the best friends in Portugal, saw the most beautiful scenery in Croatia and enjoyed amazing food and museums in Greece. In some ways this feels like an ending, and it is in away. I don’t think we will ever live in Athens again. We’ll never visit the veggie stand or the fruit market again, and this is the last time we’ll have to risk taking the terrifying elevator to our 7th floor apartment. (I’m still worried I’ll get stuck in it with my bags at 3am tomorrow morning and our plane will leave without us. If I never post again you’ll know why.) In most ways though, it’s not really not an end. Our journey continues. We’re still nomads, traveling and journeying, making art and living life wherever we are. We’re just traveling to the next place. Looking for new ground to walk on, new sights to greet our eyes, and always good food.

Mmmm….I love good food.

Endings and beginnings are always tied together. Maybe they’re all just continuings.

Like most Greek cities, Corinth is a mixture of old and new. Ancient Corinth and the temple of Apollo rest in the center of new mansions, restaurants and summer homes. Modern buildings line the nearby coastline, and vineyards, orchards and fields climb the hills behind all the way to the walls of the fortified medieval castle, Acrocorinth. We took a day trip to the beautiful city last week, and had the privilege of being shown around by a local farmer and our friend, Gus. Gus was an airline pilot in the states, but he retired to move to Greece and grow grapes, olives, oranges, apricots and much more. We get some of his delicious fruit every week from the farmers market, and it was amazing to see the fields where it is grown. Farming is a beautiful thing. Without further ado, here are a few little paintings from our trip.

corinth 1a

Temple of Apollo

corinth 2 a

Acrocorinth

corinth gus a

Gus’ family owned restaurant

On June 15th Matt and I celebrated one year of marriage. It’s been an incredible year. We’ve lived in 4 different countries on 2 continents. We’ve hiked mountains and dipped our feet in the crashing Atlantic waves. I can’t believe that our life is real. One of my friends asked me what it feels like to be married for a year, and I wasn’t really sure how to answer. I think it’s like birthdays, you know you’re a little older but you don’t feel any different. For this anniversary I decided to document our first year together in a book. It’s full of memories, mementoes, letters and more. Here are a few little peeks into the pages.

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I love Athens.

athens self sm

 

You’d think this wouldn’t be a huge surprise since Athens was the original inspiration for our trip, the place I’ve been waiting to get to. But I was a little worried because I generally don’t like big cities, and because EVERYONE told us not to go. Friends, family and people I’ve never even met told us not to go because Athens is dirty, expensive, horrible. I’m so glad we didn’t listen to them.

Everyday a man walks around our neighborhood playing the accordion and singing.

At least a couple times a week we pass an ancient excavation site we haven’t seen before. They’re under skyscrapers, in the metro and just fenced off in the middle of the street.

Everyone has flowers, and they’re all blooming. Pink, orange and red are just spilling over balconies and climbing up walls, everywhere you look.

Everyone is friendly, kind, helpful and so, so welcoming.

Food. Need I say more? I’ve tried all kinds of new and wonderful things since arriving here, cooking and eating are absolute pleasures. It’s easy and fun to find fresh, local veggies and to shop at small businesses.

And there’s more that I don’t even really understand. I don’t know why this city is so different for me, why it feels like we just got here and we’ve been here forever all at once, why I’m not experiencing my usual desperation to get away from all the cement. I’m just really glad I’m here.

I saw a ship a-sailing,

A-sailing on the sea;

And oh, it was all laden

With pretty things for thee!  

There were comfits in the cabin,

And apples in the hold;

The sails were made of silk,

And the masts were all of gold.  

The four and twenty sailors,

That stood between the decks,

Were four and twenty white mice,

With chains about their necks.  

The captain was a duck,

With a packet on his back;

And when the ship began to move,

The captain said,

“Quack, Quack!”

sailing duck sm

This was one of my favorite nursery rhymes as a child. I think it’s partly because I loved the illustration that went with it, partly because I loved the rhythm of it, and partly because I always got to participate by adding the “Quack, quack!” at the end.

When I get back to the States I won’t be able to tell you about my trip. What do you say when someone asks “how were the last nine months of your life?” How do you sum up 270 days and 3 different countries? For us this isn’t just a whirlwind fun trip; it’s going grocery shopping, it’s cooking 3 meals a day, it’s sleeping and showering and budgeting and working. Of course we go and see beautiful places – majestic cathedrals, enormous monasteries, ancient castles, and world renowned temples – but most of those 270 days are spent just living life. And 9 months of life is a long story to tell. So here’s the short story of an average day. Not a day when we take the bus to a neighboring city or climb the acropolis hill, but just a regular day.

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The first hints of daylight behind the parthenon.

Step one: Wake up

Matt always wakes up a couple hours before me. I saw the sunrise over the acropolis once because I accidentally woke up, and then went back to sleep. It was beautiful though, all the monuments were still lit up and glowing yellow with a lavender sky behind them. When I was a teenager I thought that when I was grown up I would finally be able to be a morning person. That hasn’t really happened yet. I usually wake up and stay in bed reading for an hour while Matt makes me breakfast in bed. He’s a very good husband.

Step two: Go shopping

Because a girl’s gotta eat! Sometimes shopping is quick and easy, a stop at the fruit stand or mini market (I saw a “mini super market” the other day…not sure those words really work together), but somedays we need something more specialized. Those days tend to require long trips, sometimes by public transport and sometimes with long walks. Once you’ve walked across and entire town and been in 10 different stores without finding what you need, you appreciate shopping in the States on a whole new level.

Step three: Lunch

Ok, sometimes we actually work between shopping and lunch. That all depends on if it’s a long shopping day or a short shopping day. But either way we eat lunch. We ate lots of sandwiches in Portugal and Croatia, but here we throw together a fresh veggie salad with parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and of course feta. I love lunch.

Step four: Work

Painting. Sculpting. Planting. Cooking. Photographing. Writing. Uploading. Emailing. Work looks like a lot of things for us. We do a lot of creating, and then we do A LOT of work that has to go with creating.

Step five: Walk

If we took a short shopping trip in the morning, we like to take a walk in the afternoon. In Portugal and Croatia we walked to the water every day. Here in Athens we walk someplace different every day. There are so many streets, so many parks, so many neighborhoods that you never have to see the same thing twice.

Step six: Dinner

Yum. We eat on the Patio every day here. It’s wonderful. It was too cold in Portugal and Croatia to eat outside in the evenings, so we’re enjoying it to the fullest here in Athens.

Step seven: Whatever

Work, shower, read, watch TV, meet friends, look at the stars and eventually fall asleep.

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Moonrise over the Parthenon

 

P.S. If you haven’t seen it, check out my recent interview with Goldmine Journal here.

I’ve loved nursery rhymes for my whole life. When I was little my parents would read to me until they were hoarse, and so many of those books were nursery rhymes that I still have much of Mother Goose’s collection memorized. I’ve always thought about illustrating my favorites, and this week I actually got started. Turns out cows are so much fun to paint I couldn’t do just one.

Hey! diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon;

The little dog laughed

To see such sport,

And the dish ran away with the spoon

cow jump moon 1a

cow jump moon 2a

cow jump moon a

Some images stick with you. They show up over and over again in your work, evolving and changing with each reincarnation. Here’s a little walk through the strange twists and turns of one of the images I can’t seem to give up.

It started with this drawing in my sketchbook. It started with a spark of inspiration from Illustration Friday with the prompt “Shiny” which immediately made me think of magpies snatching up little shiny things.

shiny

Stage 1 – Drawing

The sketch eventually became an etching and the idea began to solidify. It wasn’t just about a bird grabbing something shiny, it became an illustration about the ways we hold onto things even when it is to our detriment to do so.

Shiny I

Stage 2 – Etching

Which leads us to the horse. I began thinking about the specific things that I hold onto, even when holding onto those things hurts me. One of those things my the need to be absolutely right, which automatically makes me better than others. Especially when I’m right and you’re wrong. So I added a horse on top of my etching. If you look closely you can still see the outline of the bird in the print below.

shiny highhorse

Stage 3 – Etching and Monoprint

I entered the high horse print into a show where it was sold. This is great if you are supporting yourself through your art (like me), but also sad if you really liked it and maybe kind of wanted to keep it (like me). A friend really liked it also, but since the horse was gone I ended up creating a custom version for her. This time with a buffalo.

Shiny Buffalo

Stage 4 – Etching and Monoprint

Then the image just sat for awhile. I graduated from school and didn’t have access to a printing press to create any more etchings so I pushed it to the back of my mind. But it wouldn’t quite go away and I thought about it more and more until I decided it was time to create another high horse. I pulled out an old relief cut print that hadn’t worked out quite right and painted and collaged on top of it.

cow jump moon 3a

Stage 5 – Linocut, Acrylic and Collage

I don’t know if this version will be the last one or not. Maybe it’s an image I keep coming back to because I still haven’t totally given up my high horse.

croatia self portrait a

 

They say that travel changes you. By “they” I mean all the internet lists about travel. Travel is supposed to be a huge, life altering experience that turns you into a much better human being. To some degree I agree with that idea, I do think that travel can teach you a lot about humanity around the world in ways that are often harder to learn when you stay still. But I’ve found that, six months into my nine month journey in Europe, I don’t feel very different. I don’t look at myself and see a magical transformation. Instead I just see the difference that happen day by day, the growth that life in general brings. Maybe I just can’t see it yet because I’m still in the middle of it. Maybe all those Croatian sunsets are stored up inside me somewhere, spilling out bits of light and color little by little and someday I’ll be able to see them all together as one picture. Or maybe not. And maybe that’s ok too.