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  • By Jerry Ann Fenter

Thoughts on Summer

The Beautiful Burren

My August class in Ireland is getting close and I'm looking forward to it. The class is full. My students are excited (which is a great thing), are at all levels of experience and I'm sure will all work and play well together! The group seems to have a real sense of adventure and at the same time a great sense of humor. They are all brave enough to come with me to a new place and paint. It will be my first time in Ireland so anything can happen! We will be painting in an area of Ireland called The Burren, located in County Clare in the southwest of the country. We'll be staying at The Burren Painting Centre in the town of Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. The Centre is a B & B and with an art studio owned by the amazing Chris O'Neill. She has made it so easy for us to have a perfect place for fun, food and making art. All of us are looking forward to doing some new and interesting work, exploring new places, and having lots of unforgettable experiences. We'll visit Irish pubs, listen to Irish music and see many of the special local sights found in the Burren (Irish:Boireann, meaning "great rock.) Seeing and painting some of this new landscape has been something I've always wanted to do. I can't wait!!

I've been working hard in the studio and have just finished an exciting and moving watercolor commission. It's been challenging, it makes a strong statement and I think it is one of my most interesting pieces ever. I will be getting it photographed on Sunday. Then it will be ready for it's new home in Spokane, Washington. I'm keeping quiet about it until it's ready to go but frankly I can't wait to deliver it and post it on my blog.

Star Magnolia from our Garden

It's been an unusual summer in Timber Valley. My garden is going crazy, the plants are

huge and early rising, flowers are everywhere and the weather is warm. It's more tropical than I've ever seen it before. Disappearing Pond has lots of baby ducks...but the pond itself seems to be disappearing faster than usual. The warmth brings thoughts of both climate change and forest fires. Timber Valley itself is full of huge areas of pine trees and Douglas Firs. Lots of undergrowth and big areas of prime timber surrounds it. All of us homeowners have burn piles on the property from clearing out branches and cones that have fallen from trees over the winter. Our thoughts turn to fire season.

Mt Adams near Timber Valley

About three weeks ago we got a phone call. It was a fire evacuation warning from Klickitat County. We were told that we should be packed and ready to evacuate. There was a fire that was out of control near us. Our "go bags" should be ready. This was our first evacuation warning since we've lived in the woods. I didn't panic but it made me think. With all of the "things" we've collected over the years, what do we choose to take with us? We, like most people, have a house full of what we consider items we think we "just" can't live without".

I thought we wouldn't have enough time to choose the things we really needed. What if everything burnt up in a fire? No time to worry. We had to think fast.

Our cat Mookie

Of course our kitty Mookie and his crate were first on the list. Next was our locked box full of important documents (always in one place). I threw a few clothes in my "bag"... socks, underwear, a couple of t-shirts and a pair of sweat pants. Then I stood there...what else? I looked around the house. Ron had gotten the computers and his clothes. What "things" were irreplaceable? This was a hard question. In truth, as long as we were safe, nothing really mattered that much. I ran upstairs and grabbed a favorite teddy bear of mine that my mom had bought me when I was six...for all of 35 cents. (a memory of my childhood) My wedding ring (a memory of our marriage) watercolors from the studio and the commission piece I was working on... (tools for my work). While in the studio I noticed a photo of me and my grandma that was taken in one of those old black and white photo booths when she was still alive and babysitting me. It was taken at her favorite place...the brand new Lloyd Center in Portland. (I put that photo in my bag) I also packed a sepia photograph of her at age 18. I had a photo of my favorite uncle in my wallet...along with a few photos of my old dogs and cats, my parents, my kids and my grand kids. My address book was in my purse along with my camera.

We have lots of art. Each piece means a lot to us. can be remade and replaced. I admit I did put a Rick Bartow painting of a coyote with the go bag. This was a special piece to both of us. It was the first piece of art that we'd saved up for and bought together at the Jameson Gallery in Portland when we were first married.

All in all the "things" we actually felt we "needed" were very few. My kids and grand kids were safe in their houses. I had Ron and Mookie with me and just a few things I could touch that would always make me feel happy... My totems, toys and memories.

The fire never came close to our cabin. We were told we were safe and could "stand down". We learned a lesson that day. We don't need "things" to be happy. Just our family and a few items that bring back wonderful memories is enough.


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