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For my birthday Steve reserved a few nights for us on an island in the Adirondacks. A very small island with a single one-room cabin. No electricity, no cell service. No signs of other human life. Just 360 degree view of the spruce and pine laden Adirondack mountains. No sound beyond the waves lapping on the shore and the occasional call of loons. Bliss.

Mike, who owns the island offered to come check on us once a day but we assured him we’d be fine. More than fine. As soon as we’d put the food away I set out to explore the island and sketch a bit. At home I use my ipad for this but technology of any sort felt somehow sacrilegious. So instead I flipped off my shoes, grabbed my notebook and wandered down one of the small paths leading through the woods to the shore. Like walking on moss, each footstep massaged both my feet and my soul. And then I found the hammock where I spent many hours watching cumulus clouds dancing on the hilltops and dappling the endless shoreline forests in Prussian blue light. Sometimes sketching, sometimes just basking in the mental detox, I was reborn.

My other present from Steve was something I’ve wanted for ages - A clothesline! I think maybe the trip to the island cinched it for me. We were always stymied by the logistics of where to locate the line and the fact that it means bringing clothes up and down stairs. But for some reason after our Adirondack retreat I realized that spending time doing simple things is a truly delightful luxury! And I love the feel and smell of line dried clothes. (My sister Bobbie says why pay for exfoliation when you can get it for free using sun dried towels!) It’s only been a few loads and perhaps the honeymoon won’t last but for now I am feeling a happy delirium with each new basket full of laundry.

And lastly, for my birthday, my gift to myself was to switch from traditional to water soluble oils. It’s still new, but I’ve got that same giddy feeling of my feet sinking into a pine strewn forest path, or folding fresh laundry off the line, when I pick up a brush and dip it into water rather than solvent. There’s a freedom that comes with water I can’t quite explain but which I think will impact my painting in positive ways. There’s still that yummy buttery feel of traditional oil and theoretically there are no limits to the technicques one can use, up to and including glazing with medium, but it’s way less toxic. I’m loving it so far!

In my youth we had a saying - Minimum Equipment, Maximum Man. The point was to see how little you could get by with to prove how hardcore you were. Today, with accumulated years and wisdom I’ve modified the adage and am now a happy proponent of Minimum Stuff, Maximum Bliss!

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