Silver Linings

     I paint clouds and cloudscapes. It is said that every cloud has a silver lining; a cherished familiar idiom assuring that a bad situation holds the possibility of something good. A silver line around a dark cloud indicates that the sun is behind it.Cloudscapes are a unifying element of my work. I never thought of their dark side in any larger sense than painting a storm scape....until yesterday.
     Saturday morning The Quiet Waters Park Art Show outside Annapolis, MD began with a chilly gloom that by noon blossomed into a lovely sunny day. It was an elegantly curated show of about 70 artists in the formal gardens of lush parkland surrounded by quiet ponds and waterfalls. Three different musical groups graced the outdoor stage next to my corner booth. There came a brisk friendly crowd and most of us did very well with sales.
     On Sunday morning, the second day of the show, when I checked in at the front gate the keeper told me that there had been extreme wind through the night and a lot of damage to the show. As I wound through the park I hoped my Trimline Tent with a suspended 40 lb. weight hanging from each corner would have held up as it has through many hurricane gusts and torrential downpours the past 3 years.
     I arrived to learn that a wind shear cyclone had cut through the show in a short straight line and had demolished each booth in its path. One was embedded in a tree, others turned inside out. Shattered glass and pottery shards covered the walkways.
     I looked to the top of the hill where my gudisarts booth was supposed to be and it was gone. The carpet was still there with all the items I store inside over night still neatly in place.
     About 20 feet away I discovered my booth. It had been lifted straight up, twirled around and finally came to rest on one corner wedged between an iron garden sculpture and some hedgerows. Three of the weights were still dangling from the poles. One leg was driven 6 inches into the earth. All the paintings were off their hooks in heaps and stacks. The poles were bowed and twisted, the stay bars bent to various angles.All of the paintings were damaged. Either the frame, the painting or both were cracked, smashed or ripped through.
     Needless to say I was upset and PISSED! But at who? At what? That’s where the silver lining comes in.
     Thankfully no one was injured.

     Mercifully my tent did not damage anyone else’s booth.
     Luckily this was my last show of the season leaving me time to rebound.
     As I write this on Monday morning, 24 hours later, I’m thinking about when, as a student at the Corcoran School of Art, we had an exercise in which we were instructed to destroy our favorite piece and then reinvent it. We learned that there are no mistakes in art.Art, like love, is not a finite commodity. When there is loss, as there inevitably is, there is every good chance that something far greater will grow in its place.
     And so part of the sliver lining is that I have enjoyed a wonderful 2018 season of art shows and festivals. It warms my heart when I think of my paintings at home with my dear collectors. It delights me to paint them and to see them make others smile. As inconsistent as the weather conditions and crowds can be in this biz, one thing is always the same: the joy and generosity of the other artists, my colleagues.
     I’m not sure how I will reorganize and rebound as I process through the detritus of this stunning incident, but I will paint because that’s what I do and that is who I am...an artist. That is my silver lining.

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Beaches

     I can’t remember when the thought of going to the beach didn’t fill me with joy and anticipation. During his youth my father took a ferry across the Chesapeake Bay. So when the Bay Bridge was built in the early 50’s he was ever ready to head out to the shore in our 1952 Dodge, a black rubber truck inner-tube in the trunk.
     In my earliest beach memories I’m holding my dad’s hand, venturing into tsunami sized shore break, terrified and thrilled at the same time... Dad would lift me over the roaring surf. Every now and then we’d both go under and swirl together until inevitably we were tossed up to shore...There would be sand in my suit and in my mouth. My face would sting from the salt water.... I would be in tears, yet clamoring for another go.
     In the 50’s our family stayed at the Addy Sea in Bethany Beach or at the B&B on Olive and First Streets in Rehoboth. In those days all the guests would eat together at a big table. In Rehoboth there was a piano in the parlor and after dinner the families would rock on the porch, the kids on the tree swing while my mother’s notes wafted through the window.
     As I got older we transitioned to Ocean City Md. Every year we stayed at the old Commander Hotel on 15th Street for a couple of weeks. In my opinion I had become an accomplished swimmer from weeks and years of summer camp. I ridiculously had no fear of the sea. It wasn’t unusual for the guards to whistle me in with my blue and yellow rented rubber raft....my parents nervously wringing their hands on the shore. This was my cue to take off with friends.
     By Junior High School I was allowed to bring my best friends, Sara and Shelley. We would depart after dinner and by 9 or 10:00 be under the boardwalk with kids we’d meet up with or from school. One year, in 8th grade I think, Eric, a boy in my class showed up with his guitar and we all lay on blankets while he played. I was smitten. Soon Eric and I wandered off the beaten track and the rest, as they say, is history.
     Once I got serious about Ballet, swimming and suntans were off limits. I, never- the-less, broke the rules at least once a year...
When I became a gallery painter I would rent a studio in Fenwick Island every summer and did much of my most successful work there. My husband, Jerry, would join me on the weekends and bring his guitar. These were some of our best times. I’d stay through the fall to finish my work.
     When Ross, our son, was born we bought a condo in Bethany Beach. Ross and I lived there four months out of each year until he started school in earnest. We made friends with local families and our older daughter, Hannah, and Jerry would join us on the weekends.
     I recall a key moment....Hannah was 16 and desperately wanted to learn to drive the stick-shift jeep. I had done all I could to explain the gas, clutch and friction point. Ross and I were both facing whiplash if we continued to be in the car while she practiced. Ross was 3ish and wanted to go in the water by himself.
     We drove to the bay side park just south of Dewey Beach one warm late September afternoon. It was deserted. I put a floatation vest on Ross and tossed Hannah the keys to the Renegade. I sat on a cement parking wedge next to the water while Hannah chugged back and forth across the lot and Ross ventured into the bay all alone. The water was shallow, calm and warm. He was tickled to giggles. Hannah had one eye on me to say “See? I’m getting it.”
     It was a cosmic convergence. Gulls, giggles and grinding gears. I had the sense of being exactly where I was supposed to be, doing precisely what I needed to be doing, in a perfect place, in exquisite harmony with the universe. I was the conduit for the launching of these two extraordinary young people and had achieved a level of purpose I had never anticipated. It was pure happiness.
     It was short lived, of course.
     And thus it’s been. I have basked on many lovely beaches in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Maine, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, California, the Caribbean, the Hawaiian Islands, along the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Baltic. I still wish to explore the beaches in Australia and South Asia. And yet, I’m ultimately happiest at the Delaware Shore. I’m here all year long; swimming, painting, writing, reading, watching movies, exploring, and of course, from time to time, wondering off the beaten track.

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The Last Time
     I was an unlikely skater. When I started Ice dancing at age 49 I fell in love with it. I began out of boredom while Ross was having lessons. I needed the exercise. It looked easy to me from bleachers behind the glass....a few arabesques, a couple of fouette turns and some dégagés. It seemed like simple ballet on skates.
     Soon I was teaching ballet to skaters. I had beginners luck on the ice. Ballet translated at first and I was obsessed for about a year before the reality set in that ice skating is infinitely more difficult that ballet and extremely dangerous. And yet there was someone who wanted to skate with me and coaches who wanted to work with me. So I trained with dedication. I felt alive again....like the dancer I always was.

     I grew to love it more and more. I helped the Russian coaches with the little kids, competed and flew through space with tall, handsome, athletic coaches. It was like ballet on steroids. As the technique grew more and more difficult and I could feel the stress on my not young body I came to the realization that each time I set blade on the ice might be the last time.
So I made a little deal with myself: each day, as I removed my guards, gliding one foot, then the other across the ice I’d say almost a little prayer, “ I am so thankful to be able to do this wonderful sport. I will focus, enjoy and give it my all today because it might just be the last time.” Skaters around me, young and old were breaking bones, getting concussions, cuts, abrasions, strains and crushed fingers. Surely my number would come up eventually.

     And, of course, it did. After about 9 years of hard training my hips started to ache, a little at first and the badly. First one hip then the other developed sharp pains. I went on Celebrex and later got cortisone shots.

     One day I realized I was done. It was over. I tried, and I cried. But the truth was blaring. I remembered my deal and made my best effort to surrender with grace. I don’t regret a second that I skated. It was a thrill and a passion, two of my favorite things. It’s traced into my memory forever and etched into my heart.....another chance to dance....another glimpse of heaven.

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The Falcon


     Yesterday I ventured up to the 54th floor roof-top terrace of a friend’s condo at 1 Central Park, NYC. As I stepped out into the bitter sky with 360° degree views of New York, I was greeted by a huge noble bird perched on one of the corners. As I drew

steadily closer, snapping pictures with my iPhone, the creature never flinched but stared at me with round yellow circled eyes and arched yellow beak. He was grey of wing with dappled white and grey breast. Clearly a bird of prey, he had long orange claws. He was about 20 inches tall and appeared to be quite plump.
     Soon we were just a couple of feet apart. Separated by only a shoulder high panel of
glass, it was I who started to feel uneasy. Clearly I was out of my realm. Up so high in the air there was complete silence, no city din or drone, just quiet. I stopped snapping

and we just stared at each other for several long minutes.
     Then, in the blink of an eye he was gone. Vanished without a trace in the sky.
     I was captivated. It turns out that he is one of only about 36 Peregrine Falcons that
inhabit the tall bridges and buildings of NYC. After becoming extinct on the NorthAtlantic coast in the 60’s and 70’s due to DDT and other pesticide use, a group of dedicated ornithologists bred them in captivity in upstate New York and reintroduced them to the wild in the early 90’s. How and why they migrated to urban areas is a mystery of adaptation.

     The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on earth. Achieving speeds of over 200mph, they swoop down upon their prey, other birds on the wing, and snatch them up with fearsome claws. They are patient but aggressive and sure sighted. Sports teams are often named ’Falcons’.

      Peregrine Falcons mate for life and can live twenty years. They do not build nests but lay eggs on flat surfaces atop tall structures such as the Brooklyn and Verrazano Bridges, the Empire State Building, and Trump Tower International.
The Falcon is an emblem for success, victory and rising above a situation. In ancient Egypt the falcon was symbolic of the rising sun and was known as the king of birds. Kings were depicted with falcon heads gifted with speed of forethought, focus and determination.

     In animal totem religion systems it is said that if you see a falcon in a dream, opportunity is near. If a Peregrine Falcon comes into your waking life, opportunity is imminent. Be prepared.

​​​​​​Annie Guthrie Gudis                                                                                    

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