Monday, December 22, 2014

Mother of the Bride, Part 3- The Winter Wedding Comes Together

This wedding became real to me months before the actual occasion, but not in the way many do for the mother of the bride. I was not in charge of picking out everything or paying for everything, thank goodness. But, my daughter had entrusted me with a precious task, which was to design the flowers, and to design the layout of the wedding site in general. For me, once I put pen to paper to design and invest my creative energy, that's when it started to get real. The funny thing is that my daughter completely understands this, because she is also an artist. She is also brilliant, because she knew this would keep her emotional mom busy and therefore less likely to worry about everything!

I began the flower design by researching what kinds of flowers are available in winter. My daughter's wedding would be held at Autrey Mill Nature Preserve just north of Atlanta, Georgia, on Dec. 13th. There are historic buildings on site, including a  historic chapel built in the 1800's, where the ceremony would take place. For the flowers, she wanted mostly greens, and only white flowers.

Because of my earlier research on birth flowers, I already knew that her birth flower was the chrysanthemum, and that the flower had a lot of significance in Japan, which is where half of her heritage lies. So, the chrysanthemum was a natural pick for part of the arrangements. However, neither one of us liked the "Spider mums", and I didn't really care for the little button mums for a wedding- too common. My early research online led me to what was called "incurve mums". Later I found that this term was pretty broad, and I had to narrow it down.

For my daughter's bouquet, I wanted to go with all white to set her apart, no winter greens, and a really special, delicate flower. I thought about Lily of the Valley as a traditional sweet-smelling wedding flower, but later found out that each one of those little stems would cost about five dollars and we probably needed 50. So, plan B... I saw something online about freesia, a flower that I had in my wedding bouquet years ago. It was a bit pricey, but well worth it for the beauty. I figured that we weren't paying a lot for the rest of the flowers, so we could splurge for the bride.

I decided to use the mums for the bridesmaids and the table centerpieces, and the freesia for the bride. I also added in some white roses in the design for the bridal bouquet. 

The other really special flower I found was called "Star of Bethlehem", which comes out for winter. I really loved the symbolic significance as well as the design, and decided to use them for the bride, bridesmaids, church pews, and groomsmen's boutonnieres. The groom would have a freesia.

The last little addition to the design during the drawing stage were the pussy willows. I love this winter reed, and my daughter went nuts when they actually appeared to us. We are both bunny lovers, and she said the soft buds felt like bunny tails. I decided in designing that they would add a lovely whimsy to the arrangements, and I was really right.

After the drawings were done, I discussed everything with the florist who would help me order the flowers.

Luckily, we had been referred to Tucker Flower Shop in Tucker, Georgia. The consultant who was ordering the flowers for me was unbelievable, both with his knowledge, design sense, and his ability to relate to my vision. He and I hit it off just about from the start. And it didn't hurt that he was crazy about all things Japanese. He did a lot of research on all of the flowers, and we settled on white "football" mums- they gave us the most bang for the buck, and they were gorgeous.

We had to go through the "greens", because I decided that there were some leaves there that weren't your typical "Christmas" greens, that I wanted.  I really wanted to add some juniper, because of the gorgeous blue-colored berries. Something told me to do that, and as I did, I remembered that I used to use Juniper a lot for our Advent Wreath at home- my candles were always 3 deep blue and one purple. I don't even know if it was a coincidence that this came together during the Advent season, as it has been years since I set up that wreath. But it was really a pretty combination, especially in the woods.

Juniper- a whole case!

Lastly, we added a whitish green plant called "dusty miller", a purplish leaf called Agonis,  and a fluffy fern called"plumosa", all which the florist had identified from a photo of a bouquet that my daughter liked.

Agonis (above) and Dusty Miller

Tree fern (shiny, above left), and Plumosa (or "Asparagus fern")

We picked up the flowers the morning of the Thursday before the Saturday wedding, and all that day was focused on the centerpieces first and then the bouquets. I figured I'd wait til Friday for the boutonnieres since once they were done, I couldn't have them in water.

Loading up the car

Luckily I had the help of a couple of her bridesmaids for part of the time, and her future mother- and father- in law were so gracious in letting me use their basement for everything. They helped me place everything in buckets and trim the ends of all of the flowers and greens, including cutting up the greens themselves into workable pieces. This was saying a lot, especially for the juniper.

 Juniper and Pussy Willow

We placed the Freesia and Star of Bethlehem inside though, since those flowers needed to open a little before the wedding, so they would have to be in warm, or at least room-temp water. When all that was left were the bride's flowers in that bucket after making the arrangements, I placed them in a vase and waited until the last moment to put them together for the bouquet.

My daughter had bought mason jars with candles inside for the centerpieces, so I decided to go with some pie plates to place the jars, and surround them with floral foam to build the centerpieces. We soaked them all outside and brought them in one by one as we worked. All of the greens we separated first and laid in piles so they'd be easy to pull from. I also separated the greens in a separate area that would go into the bouquets from those that would go into the centerpieces to make sure we had enough. The pussy willows had to be cut in sections carefully so I'd have enough for all of the centerpieces, bouquets and boutonnieres (for those, I used the very tender tips). 

I started the arrangements with the mums, then added the juniper since it was a little tricky to work with, filled in with the rest of the greens and added the pussy willow last.  Once we were done with the centerpieces they went outside because the temp outside was close to the perfect 38 deg. temp for the flowers- later we placed them in the garage so they wouldn't freeze overnight.

 The bouquets came next, and thankfully there were only four bridesmaids because I was wiped out by then! They contained the same as the centeripieces- 2 mums each, cedar, pine, fir, juniper, agonis, pussy willow, and for these also I added the star of bethlehem.

Next I made the flowers that would go on the church pews- these had the Star of Bethlehem, Agonis, Cedar, Pine, Fir, and Juniper. I used the Dusty Miller mostly for these, because their stems ended up being too short for the bouquet designs and they were too delicate for rooting too much into the centerpieces.

Thursday night, I still had to finish up my daughter's hem (which I described in the previous post), so the flowers sort of came to a halt. The next morning I was up at it again making the boutonnieres, and I snuck in time after the rehearsal dinner that night to finish tying bows on all of the bouquets. And at the last minute, the bride's freesia was opening up beautifully, and late Friday night I put my daughter's beautiful bouquet together for her.
Bride's bouquet- Freesia, Star of Bethlehem, White Roses ("Eskimo"variety)

 Groomsmen boutonnieres (above) with Star of Bethlehem, juniper, pussy willow and plumosa fern.
Groom's boutonniere (below) with freesia and plumosa fern

Groomsmen boutonnieres

 Planning the site...

I laid out the reception plan in terms of the tables we would need to seat the guests- I had done a preliminary plan, but once I was up there for the wedding and we had a final count, it was time to put pen to paper again.  It was fun to figure out where people would be and to envision making s'mores at a bonfire, tended to by an eagle scout who had made the fire pit for the site. We took a trip out to Autrey Mill the first day that I arrived so that I could get final measurements. I was having so much fun I broke their tape measure in the process! OOPS!

One of the visions that I originally had for the wedding at the very start were for making the traditional wedding cranes.  In our family, many times for weddings we traditionally fold 1,001 paper cranes, which is an old Japanese tradition, to wish the bride and groom health and a long, happy life together. From the moment I first saw the site months before the wedding, I knew that a tree near the pavilion where the reception would be held would be the perfect place for those cranes. I could just see them hanging there in the breeze. I wasn't sure if it would really happen, but all I had to do was say the word, and my sister-in-law went to work on half of them, with the rest made by bridesmaids, friends, myself, and my daughter.

My daughter strung the cranes on fishing line, 40 strings in all, 25 cranes per string, with one having 26. In-between she placed a cut piece of plastic straw to separate them a bit. I had the idea of tying the strings end to end so that the strands could be just hung over the big branches and we didn't have to tie anything or actually attach them to the tree in any way. In the end, I wasn't sure if hanging those strings of cranes was feasible, but the guys got it done, and it looked absolutely spectacular. I planned to place the cake table and sweetheart table under them so that the bride and groom could be framed by them. It was so magical to see them flowing with the wind.

After all was done, I really didn't even believe all that had happened. But I am so incredibly grateful to have been such an integral part of my baby girl's wedding, and it's something we'll always share.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mother of the Bride Part 2: A Stitch in Time

I left you all at the airport, and oh boy, a lot has happened in a very short time since then!
My daughter got married!

I thought I'd bring you along on the wonderful road I traveled as we prepared for the wedding, broken up into a couple of posts (because one post would be a LOT.)
With this first one, (well, part 2, I guess), I thought I'd tell you all about the knitting and sewing. My daughter made her own wedding gown, and I can't really speak for all of that except to tell you that she actually created it with no pattern- it was hand-draped, which meant hand-sewn for much of it. Her veil was bought, but the crown she wore was actually the same one I wore at my wedding, which was actually  my mom and dad's crowns tied together that they wore during their Greek wedding ceremony.

As my daughter was making her dress, I was in a quandary as to what in the world to wear myself. She would be married on a nature preserve that housed several historic buildings, including a chapel built in the 1800's (where the ceremony would be) and an outdoor pavilion (where the reception would be). Keep in mind that this wedding just happened on December 13, so I had planned on it being cool. It took me awhile to find a dress that I wanted. My daughter had no "color" to her wedding, if you will. What I mean is, she wanted only winter greens and white flowers for arrangements. Her bridesmaids were all picking out whatever dress they wanted to wear, no rules, no particular color, just some shade of green.

So, I figured I could go with a neutral sort of color. But I just couldn't find anything flattering that I liked. I looked quite a bit at patterns to make my own garment, and I almost went in that direction. My daughter loved the clothes on a website called and suggested I check there before embarking on the sewing. I just so happened to fall in love with a dress that would be perfect for the cool weather- a soft, thick fabric, cowl-neck dress. And it had a handkerchief hem, above the knee, which I thought was fun. And it was actually called the "Showstopper Storyteller Dress". So, you know, I figured it was made for me and all. :)...The only thing is- it was a pretty bold indigo purple/blue. I showed it to my daughter online, and she told me she thought it was "rad". So it was a go. I ordered it thinking that I could just try it on and see how it looked and felt. When it came,  it slid on me so perfectly and felt like a warm, comfortable blanket, and I knew it was the one, bold color and all.

As I waited for it to arrive, I still kind of wanted to make something for myself, and I toyed with the idea of knitting a shawl- this was also my daughter's suggestion. However, there was only about a month's time before the wedding, and I didn't know if I could finish. "I have faith in you", said my daughter. So again, it was a go. I went to JoAnn Fabrics to look at yarn and patterns (with the last disaster blanket knitted with the cheapo yarn fresh in my memory), and ran across a pretty pattern that looked easy. Rather than casting on a small amount of stitches and making many rows, (like a scarf), it called to cast on 225 stitches on circular needles, (gauge 15 sts and 20 rows to 4" over st stitch using size 13 needle). They called for ribbon yarn, bulky weight, but I couldn't find ribbon yarn. However I figured I'd be okay if I just used a bulky weight yarn and got the right gauge.

A friend of mine suggested  I look at  I found the most unbelievable yarn. I ordered "Mecha" by Malabrigo- the color I chose was "Piedras". It was 100% wool, made in Peru. I honestly can't say enough about the quality of this yarn. I have never used anything so soft, supple, forgiving, sturdy, and GORGEOUS in my life. It wasn't cheap, but I knew that it would turn out scrumptious. I figured that the colors range it had would bring my bold indigo together with the browns of the forest, and the greens of the floral arrangements. In fact, as it happened, one of the photo references that my daughter had for flowers included a purplish leaf that I ended up including in the arrangements, and the shawl ended up being a star.

I did learn at least one great new thing while making this piece. With the way I was taught to cast on, during the first row, I always would end up with a really long piece of yarn between the needles that would get tangled, and sometimes even had to be cut. Figuring there had to be a better way, I googled it, and there was! Here is a good video that I recommend if you haven't learned the long-tail cast-on method. It is easy, and makes a huge difference.

However, there was one curious thing- as I took the piece off of the needles once it reached a width of 18", I was a bit disappointed that it was not longer. I did check the gauge (well, more or less) and it looked like it would be more than long enough with the amount of stitches cast on. I wasn't sure what had gone wrong. All I could think was that I hadn't used ribbon yarn.

I did have an extra hank of yarn, and I toyed with the idea of adding on to each end. However, this last skein was a slightly deeper color, and it looked bad next to the existing knitting. I thought about sending it back and trying to fix it, but there was no time. In the end, I just added on a fringe and hoped it would be ok. For the fringe, I used some of the extra skein color and just a bit of extra yarn that I had that was closer to the color of the knitted piece, taking time to blend the colors of each piece of fringe (which included 3 pieces of cut yarn). In the end, the difference in color from the new skein was not noticeable at all in the fringe. As I packed to leave, I trimmed the fringe even and hoped for the best in terms of the overall length.

With the fringe and some time to stretch, the piece actually was a perfect length for me. I wore it for the rehearsal dinner with my brown sweater, and it was perfect. In the end, the shawl, together with some dark chocolate brown tights and ankle boots, and my indigo dress, really rocked for the wedding in the woods.

Also, my daughter had asked me if I could help her hem her bridal gown. "Sure!" I smiled, forgetting what it takes to hem a full-length gown with an almost full circle hem! It's funny, but you know, I knew it would all work out no matter how hard I had to work to get the ends tied, so to speak. I arrived in Atlanta late Tuesday night, which gave me all day Wednesday and Thursday, and part of the day Friday to get her gown and the flowers done. However, when you've got a lot of people to meet and family to see, time sure runs short! I ended up doing most of my real work between 9 pm and 2 am, and of course was up again by 6 with relatives. It was a long weekend!

Wednesday was pinning up the gown, which is really the only way to hem a dress of this caliber. In my experience, it can only be correctly done with the bride wearing her shoes and crinoline. We were confined to one small room in my daughter's apartment- the only room the kitty wasn't allowed in, so we wouldn't have any cat hair on the dress. Unfortunately that was the same room that housed the 1,001 paper cranes strung on fishing line and ready to hang at the reception! To make matters even more complicated, when my daughter had sewn her gown, she was just using every fraction of yardage available, without regard to any pattern. So in some areas there was up to a foot of extra fabric to be done away with at the hem, while in some areas, I barely had enough. The only thing that would have made it more complicated would have been if there was a train!

I tried to pin it up enough in front so she wouldn't trip- the site was really hilly and uneven. The back could go a little bit longer. But it was not an exact science by any means, which made me a little uneasy.

However, time was limited, and as she knew by the way I raised her, when the going gets tough the tough get going.  So we quickly pinned, and later that afternoon I set aside any plans to get together and relax with family, and I got down to business. It was then Wednesday night, only 1 more day to play with (considering rehearsal), and I still had to do flowers.

I spent the evening at my brother-in-law's home, in a quiet room upstairs. There was no tv or music to distract me (or keep me company), and I set the crinoline down (it stood up by itself- which is why we affectionately called it"the ghost".) 

Since I had spent some time earlier drawing a floor plan for the reception, by the time I began hemming the gown, it was already almost 10 pm. I was so completely exhausted from the trip, and getting ready to go before that. I looked over my daughter's veil on a nearby rocking chair, and it came to mind that nothing ever really does change. My little girl will always be my little girl. I reminisced about the early days after I brought her home from the hospital, living on such little sleep, but with so much love, just knowing that I would rock her until she fell asleep, no matter long it took.

However, I tried to push the thoughts out of my head- no time for crying or sappiness. In fact, I am quite sure that my daughter left the hemming and flower design tasks to her overly emotional mom to keep her from drowning in her own tears; she knows me so well!  As I was faced with the yards and yards of ivory satin, my old tried-and-true hemming methods came to mind- don't worry about the uneven excess fabric- just quickly and confidently hand-baste the hem where the pins told me to when she was wearing it, very close to the fold, and work my way all around the dress.

And there was A LOT of dress...

Then it was time to trim the excess fabric. However, I couldn't find any sewing shears in my daughter's sewing basket! No doubt they were in that room with the cranes somewhere back at her apartment. But I did find a pair of kid's scissors, and- "what's this?! a palette knife!" ("That's my girl", I thought... "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"). :)

Luckily, I found a pair of scissors in my sister-in-law's kitchen that would do. I was afraid to commit on such a precious piece of work and cut all of the extra fabric. I even called my daughter to get her vote of confidence. Time was of the essence, so I had to trust my gut. I went ahead and cut, folded over twice and pressed to get it ready for the final hand-hemming. After that I tiptoed downstairs - my back was aching from hunching over the ironing board, and I just wanted to sit and sew while watching some tv. (and get some hot chocolate). Before long, it was well past 1 am, and after watching a little Letterman I knew I had to get to sleep- it was going to be up early to go pick up the car-ful of flowers at 7 am. I only had gotten about one or two linear feet of hemming done, and there was at least a dozen more to go!

The next day was full of flower arranging, and I will get to that in the next post. That night, (Thursday), on very little sleep, it was time to hem again. This time, I was down to the wire, and really needed to get it done before I slept. I and the dress had been transferred to my daughter's wonderful in-laws' home, and I had the whole basement and giant tv to keep me company. Before she went to bed, my daughter's mother-in-law-to-be put on "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason", and I was almost done when the movie was done. Of course by then, it was almost 2 am! And up again before dawn on Friday with the new relatives! A whirlwind, and the wedding hadn't even begun.

I really didn't know how the hem would be- I prayed. I mean really prayed. But wow, it felt like a miracle that the hem turned out perfectly, and worked great for the hills on the site. She still had to lift up the front to trudge through the woods for the professional photos, but she just floated along the entire hilly venue during the ceremony and reception, just like an angel.

And, it was worth every moment of worrying that I wouldn't make it on so little sleep. The joy of seeing that smile gave me years and years more energy, just like when she was a little girl.

I'll be posting again soon about the wedding, focusing on the flower design process.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mother of the Bride, Part I

Had every intention to post here for you all from the airport. Off I go to finally be with my girl and wrap up things for her wedding. I even had a lot of time to kill here at the gate! But I can't upload pics from this phone and didn't bring my computer. I promise it'll all be up afterwards.

Had a long (but amazing) day Friday as a guest speaker at OCSA. But then I procrastinated packing all weekend because I was so exhausted, and my stomach has been tied up in knots. Today, however, I'm feeling better, and up up and away in an hour.

Made it thru security just fine.  Those new screening machines are pretty cool. But they make you feel like a criminal, hands-over-your-head and all. The only thing they questioned was my Greek evil eye bracelet. I KNEW it had magnetic powers. 

In a while it will be a flurry of  site planning, wedding dress hemming, hanging 1001 paper cranes, creating centerpieces and bouquets and boutonierres, but for right now it's time for Jolly Ranchers and Diet Coke...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Creating the Feathers

This post is a follow up (Part II, if you will) of the previous. I am just compelled to start with this poem, that I'm sure you've all heard, by Emily Dickinson.

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."

Hope comes to me these days, as discussed in the previous post, many times in the form of "the thing with" feathers, whatever the invisible thing that is, and I'm not asking any questions. I'm flying with it. And another thing. That poem means a LOT to me. I love that little bird.

So here's a post all about the creative process based on what I've been experiencing-

Originally, following finding many of those feathers discussed in the past post (with the exception of those white ones), I had conceived the idea of using the mixed medium process of gesso on board, followed by acrylic, and topped with pastel. Before I started, however I was inspired by that photo discussed in the blog post dated 10/28,  and finished that piece first.

That's just how it goes sometimes, you plan on doing one thing, something else steps in, and you've gotta do that first before you can do what you had originally planned. I've learned that IT IS TOTALLY OKAY NOT TO TRAVEL IN A STRAIGHT LINE. (that's just me shouting at myself, btw)...In fact, walking in a straight line is pretty boring. And depressing. And it isn't the way it's supposed to be when you're an artist anyway. You're supposed to go with the flow instead of trying to fight it.

SO, I finished that piece of the Gapstow Bridge, which turned out just the way I wanted because I was so inspired by that image, and I allowed myself to veer off-course. AND, I even learned so much about the process. So I got all of my feathers together. My original concept had been to try to make a really cool arrangement and paint them. This is what they look like:

Pretty cool, right? And so I plowed ahead, sketched the feathers, got the board primed with gesso and started an an acrylic underpainting.

However, I hit a roadblock there and I wasn't sure why. I mean, I knew that I absolutely did not like the background color I had chosen, which was supposed to eventually look like grass, and I was debating what to change it to. But things kept getting in the way of this, or I kept LETTING things get in the way of this, and I didn't want to. This box of feathers and the unfinished painting kept getting moved from the drafting table to the kitchen table to my "over-messy-storage-room-of-a-studio" that needs to be cleaned..Life happened and Thanksgiving happened and the whole time I just longed to do this. But it was just getting too overwhelming and I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Everything- the shadows and colors and complexities.

So I did something I don't normally do, that I need to do more of. I allowed myself to set it aside, promising myself that I WOULD pick it up later. That's when I started to find those white feathers.

During FAVO a few weeks ago I had done a concept sketch of one of the white feathers on a black background. I knew that would eventually be a piece, so why not do it now? I could experiment with how the mixed media technique worked while at the same time, making a clean, bold statement.

By the time I found that white feather on my barefoot walk in the park, it was time to get it done.

I found an old scrap mat board to work on- it's about 7 1/2 x 12, and it was black. At first I thought that would mean I wouldn't even have to paint a background, but as it turned out the "clear gesso" isn't completely clear and you can see it on a solid matte black board. I went ahead and painted a background, but chose that instead of pure black I'd take the opportunity to go with a deep grey-blue so that I could put in just a hint of shadow- I'd need that shadow to be just a bit darker than the background. I put the feather on a notebook I had in similar color to help me see the shadows.

Next I worked with a light layer of white acrylic, followed by a thicker and thicker layers. I used medium to help me, but quickly realized that I needed to work faster than I had thought before it dried! I had found an old mascara brush to use to help me with the texture and oh my did I have fun!

For the spine of the feather I globbed a bunch of paint with medium and used my palette knife to taper it.

After the paint dried it was time to apply the chalk pastel. Looking at the feather closely, I noticed that it really didn't look as "white" as that paint did. I learned that next time I could try to scrape more with that mascara brush to see through to the background. But here, I used a light grey chalk mixed with white chalk and rendered in the variations of grey. I went ahead and added some water with a brush to blend it in since there was too much texture to blend it dry.

I think the most fun I had was scrubbing in that white chalk at the bottom of the feather to make those fluffies. That's also my favorite part of the feathers! :) I kept that chalk mostly dry and blended with my fingers or just left un-blended. When I got done with the white and grey chalk, I went in with some black, both paint toward the top half of the feather, and some chalk- the pastel black is really very rich and helped me bring out a three-dimensional look under the 'fluffies'

This painting is of that feather that I had found on that barefoot walk. I started and finished it Monday. The blog post which was written just before this one was finished the same evening, just after midnight, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Later that day, (yesterday), I was at the grocery store. There was a nice young lady in the line ahead of me, with very short hair, and I was surprised to see that she had a tiny feather tatoo behind her ear. I'm not normally a tatoo lover, but this was not only a coincidence, but it was really neat, the way it followed the shape of her ear and just hid behind there. Of course I had to comment, and we struck up a conversation. Apparently she had it done to honor her Native American culture. I talked with her about how I'm learning about the meanings of feathers due to my work, and asked her what she knew about the feather she wore. It was a raven feather, which I found out is sacred to the Native Americans as "Creation and Knowledge- Bringer of the Light" It was curious though, because it wasn't black. Guess what color it was? No! It wasn't white either. It was RAINBOW colored. That's another thing that made it so pretty.

And I never told you the name of the park I was walking in when I found that feather. Yup. "Rainbow Park". I'm not making this up.

And as I said last time, I am not trying to figure out why these things happen; I am just smiling, and taking it as a sign from the angels that I've found my next foothold. So, on I go, following the feathers of hope in the serendipitous scavenger hunt of this amazing, curious, bizarre, blessed, and sacred life of art!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Angels, Birds, and Boxes of Chocolate.

 Recently, the theme music from "Forrest Gump" has been going over and over in my head, because I remembered in the beginning scene, a beautiful white feather danced in the wind, reminding us of how random things can seem to be... And yet feathers in my life have recently been seemingly landing at times or places that just don't seem random at all.

They usually appear on a meditative walk, at the precise moment when, after trying to figure something out, I come to a place of letting go, when I know I just don't have the answers. It's almost like they are there to say, "give it up Lisa, God's got ya covered".

About 5 years ago I had a counselor that had a couple of white feathers in her office. As I was noticing them, she had told me she believed that feathers are "God's promises". That was the first time I had heard that. But it really stuck with me.

I noticed a feather collection at the home and violin shop of one of my most beloved friends and his wife in Gainesville. They live on a property in the middle of many glorious acres that he calls "The Magic Forest" and they walk and admire nature often.

Fast forward years later, and I went for a walk during a depressed time. Here's a picture of what I brought home the first time I decided to look for things that made me happy and pick them up. This was the first feather I can remember actually finding that way and keeping myself- and it's still one of my favorites.

A little while later, I was in that state again, and a friend of mine gave me these amazing feathers from a macaw that she had been pet-sitting. They became inspiration for a painting. Their electric blue feathers instantly transported me into another emotion, and I was on a roll.

And now, I just allow the feathers to pick me up when I feel like I'm squashed into the mud. They seem to lift me up. I gathered a whole bunch one day while out at the lake visiting a friend at an art show. I had so much fun watching the family of ducks nearby swimming, and the kids feeding them and trying to grab pets. The feathers really did somehow make me feel just a little bit more connected to the people and things around me, not under them.

Around that time, I got interested in what all the symbolism was around feathers. Did what the counselor say make any sense, and were there any reasons why I should believe this?

I did know already that the beliefs of the Native Americans, "animism", has always been near and dear to my heart. In fact, if I had to decide on a philosophy, that may be the closest I could find. I found out through research that the Native Americans believe that feathers connect the owner with the bird that gave it through spirit.

I found out too that many cultures have regard feathers highly, including the Egyptians.

And truly, a whole lot of people believe what my counselor at the time had believed, that they are tokens, or signs left behind by the angels. This idea makes me really happy, and so I'm going with it. In fact, in my research I had even found that the Native Americans believed different bird feathers carried different meanings, and many believe that the colors make a difference. At least one reference directly related white feathers to angels, and even went further to say that it means your loved ones who have crossed over are saying they are safe and at peace.

Most recently, white feathers only keep appearing to me. I was down in Kissimmee at a lake, and there were thousands of different kinds of black and grey birds all around me. I was hoping maybe I'd find a feather then. It was really strange, because I found only one feather, and it was a pure white. Near the feather was an information plaque about Chief Osceola, for which the surrounding county was named.

At a student's art lesson, I brought her outside to work on drawing a tree. I told her about how I was collecting feathers. She pointed to one hundreds of yards away, and told me it was probably from a duck that comes visiting that they call "Queen Bee".

But the coolest find recently was the other day- I decided to take a walk around a park next to my son's school, Valencia College, (where he takes a few classes during his senior year of High School) while waiting for him to get out of class. Since I didn't want to walk in the shoes I had, I decided to take them off and go for a nice "grounding" walk. I've heard it helps your mind and body to electrically discharge to the earth. It was glorious, except for the fact that I realized it's important not to walk under the canopy of an oak tree...acorns hurt....

I saw some sandhill cranes, and thought that maybe I'd find a grey feather. It was a gorgeous cool day, and I was absolutely relishing the feeling of the soft soccer-field grass under my feet. There were no feathers anywhere. I probably walked about a mile, weaving in and out of those mine fields of acorns, turned around and then two minutes after turning to go BACK, I saw this, directly in the same path I had just walked along...

Who knows why these things happen? I looked up all about the scene in Forrest Gump. In a video about the making of the scene, Gary Sinese said, "It means, destiny is a crapshoot. Was it supposed to happen that way, or did it just happen that way because that's the way the feather blew?" Well, whichever way it is, I have decided that these signs are meant to show me all will be okay. Not to think too much about everything. Not to worry - let destiny be. Instead, I'm gathering up my feathers and I am starting on some art about them. My next post will be all about that.

I still can't get that music out of my head, and the beauty of that scene. I remembered the feather, but I didn't remember that Forrest had picked it up and saved it. He knew what it was all about.