Honoring the Shadow

. . .Yet, the shadow, while very real, is not meant to be taken concretely or literally but rather, allegorically. It is not an evil entity existing apart from the person, nor an invading alien force, though it may be felt as such. The shadow is a universal (archetypal) feature of the human psyche for which we bear full responsibility to cope with as creatively as possible. . . Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D


I’ve spent parts of the last few weeks “purging” –a continuation of the “Magical Art of Tidying Up” –clearing out my physical world and consequently clearing out my psyche. Letting go of the past. Honoring the memories, the people, the experiences. Kayaking in Prince William Sound that summer. It rained everyday but the water so still. Placid. The world incredibly green. Lush. Monica’s pink umbrella. The drip drip drip. The Labor Day I started school a week late to go kayaking in the Broken Islands with a group from Bellingham and that glorious pause to watch the Sea Lions slither in the water before us. Magnificent. Another week floating and writing on the Copper River from Chitinia to Cordova with other artists and poets.


David Grimes music and flag rising up to honor our passing. The Million Dollar Bridge. A helicopter in Kamchatka that didn’t crash but took us far into wilderness where we watched a rehabilitated eagle released back to the wild. A canoe trip down the Chulitna with an old boyfriend who went into a rage when I answered my phone in the quietude of sandbar and fireweed. Oops! it was work.

Where are you?

Salmon spawn and the encounter of bear between us and the river. The trips to Mexico. My 40 year old self still wearing a bikini. Belly belly. The long hair. The bad hair. The bangs. Those early summers in Alaska. So much wonder. So much heartache. My PTSD Purple Heart neighbor on Indian Creek. The wildflowers in a crystal vase he picked for my birthday. Even now I feel outside those moments. Looking in on my life. A shadow of myself. The desire for approval. The asking permission. The crazy-making. The disappointments. The mistakes. The blessings. The beauty. The tears. So many tears. “Cry me a bucket” he used to say and I’d laugh.


Did I mention how hard it’s been to breathe lately? To draw a deep breath without thinking. To relax naturally into the rhythm. That same rhythm that keeps us alive everyday and through sleeping without thinking. These past few weeks: going through photos, sitting at my desk, walking a path or even reading before bed I’m suddenly unable to breathe. Naturally. There’s anxiety in my lungs.


My creative life involves taking photos. Apparently 1000’s of them. It gives me a role. A safe place to reside. A focus. Something I enjoy. Immensely. Time stops. Or begins. I realize it is a part of my wanting or needing to be known. This art of becoming visible. Even to myself.

A way to engage without words — though it is still a conversation. The subject mostly abstract. Dishevelment. Texture. Street furniture and mailbox. Urban. The warmth of light on concrete. A spider’s web. The beauty in ordinary.

In the early days I took slides. All those adventures. Documented. My 20 year old self at Colorado Mountain College exploring the canyons of the San Juan, the Escalante, Canyonlands National Park, Havasupai and 21 days down the Grand Canyon rafting. Twice. Later came travels to Tasmania, Fiji and a ridiculously short stint in London. Slides left on a bookshelf in Anchorage nearly 20 years ago.


It brings up stuff this purging of past and people and memory. The passing of time. I turn 60 in July. Hmmm. Never one to worry about aging. Before.

My nieces and nephews grown. I find their Senior Class photos. I was not the good Aunt. Far away, but I love the photo of Brandon eating cold pizza on the glacier in Alaska. He passed the bar (exam) last summer. On his first try. I save all the family photos. Mom in the farmhouse kitchen where my sister no longer lives. Dad drinking mimosas on Thanksgiving morning. Hugh in the studio. Alberto and the postcard he sent from Paris. I put it on the refrigerator. People have died. Babies born. I remember the moments like yesterday. So much angst in the joy. Despite the beauty. There is loneliness. Despite the smile. There is undercurrent. Despite all that opportunity for travel and adventure there is absence.


I carry the first bag of photos to the recycle bin outside my gate. Inside I pour a glass of wine. Only 2pm. Saturday. The sun is brilliant. I’ve had a lovely walk in the arroyo. Hello to dogs and people. An errand feels productive. Check on houses for people that pay me to do such things. Feed the birds. Water the plants. Fold the towels. Pick up the mail. It is a good day to keep the project going.


Photos on the trunk in front of the couch stacked in piles. Some for scanning. Some for giving to others. Some on the couch. Some are maybe. Others I toss easily into the bag for recycle. And then I’m overcome. Spinning. A poltergeist sweeps my ‘still life on windowsill’ crashing to the floor as my own hands thrust a large medieval sword straight into my heart. I see it spinning clockwise around the room. A whirlwind of energy. In an instant. Suicidal. I am stunned by the emotion yet remarkably present. I stand fully grounded.


I’ve been here before. I know how to be. I hear Joseph’s voice in my head saying “stay with the feelings” –and then I realize—Anger. Rage even. Wow! and a little bit of grief. Well maybe a lot of grief. In writing this now it sounds like I’m sniffing out the nuance of a fine wine. Tobacco or notes of vanilla. Spicy tannins. I go outside to sit in the sun. Late afternoon warmth. Overcome I put my head in my hands and the light disappears. There is so much darkness. A total eclipse. Surprised at the intensity. Yes it’s still here. I get it. Okay. Honor the shadow. And so I do.

This is a gift. Though it feels violent. A tsunami of emotion. I scratch my head or slap myself in a mad flurry, not unlike my massage therapist, and then I beg for it to stop. I shout “I hate this” and then I’m quiet. Gentle. I take another walk. A bath. I’m fine now. And I am.


I’m not bipolar in case you’re wondering. Not mentally ill though I use to wonder. Emotional abuse will do that to you. I don’t take medication. I believe in feeling my feelings. I’m grateful for wilderness. For natural beauty. For quietude. For wine, walking and travel. For friendship. For family. For all the hard things and happy endings and magic. I’m grateful for the gifts that come from living an atypical life. I have good luck. I may be empathic. Intuitive. An introvert. This is my world. All those moments that make a life. A simple photograph. Death and resurrection. My adventures are changing. Purging is risky business. But I’m diving in. It’s okay.


Brenda is a Personal Assistant to interesting women, caretaker of dogs and the occasional cat. She currently lives in the Land of Enchantment and is enjoying the absence of winter though as she writes the clouds are gathering outside her window.



Posted in Blog, Brenda Roper, The Magical Art of Tidying Up, Travel

Celibacy, Connection & the Women’s March

I didn’t attend the Women’s March this weekend though I went last year and it was a highlight of my life. My first March. Same weather. Snow overnight. Cold. Blustery. Invigorating. January. Days after the inauguration. I went alone though quickly enveloped in a crowd walking from my neighborhood to the gathering. A tribe. Of kinship. Signs and chanting and pink pussy hats. Planned Parenthood. Rainbow. Of community for a common cause. All those things I stand apart from on a daily basis. I was interviewed. Local news. A microphone shoved to my lips. Words come forth. Without time to ponder. They come from the heart. From momentum.

INSTEAD I sit before my computer trying to find my way. To articulation. I listen to Interfaith Voices on Sunday morning radio. My vintage Sony. This week an interview with a single devout Catholic lesbian who has taken (not a vow) but an intention of celibacy to explore other paths of loving. My ears perk up. A vow is more serious. Of the religious order. I find this on Wikipedia: Celibacy (from Latin, cælibatus”) is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons.

In modern speak celibacy is often an interchangeable term for abstinence. In the interview her (not vow) of celibacy is part of her spiritual journey. A path to find kinship outside the norm of traditional coupledom. Her devotion to Catholicism. A way to love without intercourse. A deepening of connection. Of friendship love. Of finding a tribe. Of the love of God. Of comfort in solitude. Not necessarily an absence of touch. (I intended to share the interview but when I listen again I realize her words were simply a catalyst. I am selective. Taking them out of context to nurture my own ideas and questions).

I have experienced long bouts of “celibacy” over the past 20 years. I too exploring other kinds of love. Soul, self, style, creative, travel, friendship. Then came a knock at the door. A walk in the mountains turned into a one year relationship. It was temporary. Acknowledged from the beginning. Lots of discussion. Push and pull. Still when the ending came I was heartbroken. More attached to the idea of love and coupledom than the actual relationship. He emotionally unavailable. Me too, I suppose, though I didn’t know that at the time. So much fear in being vulnerable. So much shame.

The occasional sex that followed six months or three or seven years later not so much connection or release but happenstance. A moment of affection turns into something else. The occasional girlfriend. Just sex. Long distance. Short-lived. Not what I’m looking for. Not that I didn’t honor these moments or the men that showed up. I went willingly but not without doubt. Not without fear. Then I lost my voice. Again.

(I often tell friends “being single is under-rated” –especially if female and not actively pursuing a relationship. Often it feels defensive. And that’s always a red flag. As if I’m incapable of affection simply by not wanting to sign up for match.com. Like I’m a mutant.)


The absence of sex has not been an intention so much as a way to honor my own path. The slow route to finding my tribe. A kinship. Coupledom not the goal though an expectation so I work to open myself to that possibility yet it feels forced. Or fearful. Okay let’s be honest. I’m terrified!! One moment I’m excited –even fantasizing-and the next I’m committed to living an inward life. Sometimes I feel my richest gifts lie within that solitude.

My greatest desire (is) to be known. To be seen. To be understood. And my greatest fear (is) revealing this hidden/isolated self to another. The way I think. The strong opinions. The gravity age takes on a body.

I’m not sure I’m capable of being “me” in the intimate presence of another. How to go from the comfort of cooking, drinking wine, dipping my bread at the kitchen counter, dancing alone around the room, imaginary conversations with others to actually BEING with another in unbridled honesty in a sexual context. Naked. Sharing a bath. Candlelight. The interludes between sex and intimacy. Speaking up. Going slow or fast but not without communication. The ability to articulate. It is a skill not easy for everyone despite the “metoo movement. Despite the solidarity. Being heard. Understood. Not afraid of no or yes or not yet. To be vulnerable without fear of violation or ridicule.

I default to friendship love, while enriching, sometimes there is longing for touch. That beautiful touch written so eloquently by David Whyte. A myriad of transcendence from physical to metaphor. Or the words I love you sometimes difficult to say. . . even to friends and family. There is a weight in our hearts. A fear of rejection or misunderstanding. A longing.

These are things I notice over the weekend I did not attend the Women’s March:

  • the book on my nightstand Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I pick it up and put it down. About coyotes and solitude and tumbling in the hay with a younger man and relationship and seeking ourselves in wilderness (so far –I’m only on Page 74).
  • Touch – a poem by David Whyte I find on Facebook and share though no one reads it. Facebook is like that. You can read it here. I want to write like this from tangible to metaphor and back so eloquently. Beautiful. Sad. True. Thank you David Whyte.
  • the movie: Call Me By Your Name My heart transported. So much love and understanding and brilliance. Exploration. Vulnerability. Heartache. Life and the gift of acting upon the moments given us.
  • the sliver of new moon in the January sky. Before the clouds of snowfall.
  • another poem in my inbox on Sunday morning. By Robert Hayden 1978 (American Journal) –I read it aloud to the empty room. To my own ears. Carefully every line break. The alien voice. The ugly American. All of it. Then. Now. So true. and still. Political. Beam me up Scotty.

The beauty of coincidence. The dream symbols. Overwhelming emotions. The gift of time. The art of surrender. Patience. The light returning. I am honored on a daily basis. Blessed. I am grateful. Still there is absence. It is (of) this I speak. The loneliness not filled by the simple presence of someone in the room, across the table or even sharing a bed –it is a deepening. A greater knowing. This I seek. Not God but god-like. Spiritual. A presence in not only being enough but believing it true.


Brenda is a Personal Assistant and artist currently in Santa Fe, NM. Her work investigates the texture of social/personal relationships through poetry, painting, photography and travel. Installations have focused on family secrets, feminism and the concept of democracy.

Posted in Blog, Brenda Roper, Poetry, Spiritual/Love

The Magical Art of Tidying Up 2018 + etc.


Happy New Year 2018 — the Year of LOVE & Connection

Do I need to keep my “Progress Report” cards from Kindergarten that say I need improvement in accepting responsibility under “Social and Emotional Development” –ditto for “Skills and Interests” –this includes:

  • Expresses Ideas Clearly in Art (apparently I’m still working on this. . .)
  • Shows Muscular Control in Use of Tools & Materials (what the Crayola???)
  • Learns Songs Easily & Likes to Sing (no comment)
  • Displays Physical Coordination in Rhythms –they left this blank. (Probably my biggest skill since I always wanted to be a dancer and no credit of any kind)

Moving on to “Mental Development” I had a bit of trouble completing tasks and following directions. That’s probably still true but I could recognize my own name in Manuscript and enjoyed stories, poems and books. Counting to 10 was also achieved without room for improvement. By the end of the year I had greatly improved to “Satisfactory Progress” on all counts. This is called learning the art of conforming when it matters for approval. Teacher or Parental. Sheesh. It struck a cord. A forced right-hander too but no check for that box.

On to the Report of Progress for 1st grade. Lots of 2’s especially in my health habits and posture. I was also a bit dubious in self-control, working well on my own and being considerate of others. Really? Why all the judgment of a 5 year old. An obvious timid child whose eyes were dilated in her class photograph. Adorable as it might be with big blue eyes and sailor dress. I also apparently gained 8 pounds in 1st grade without growing even ¼” of an inch. Oh my!! Body shaming begins. . .

Still, these cards filled in with ink and saved by my mother for over 50 years I cannot bear to part –not yet. There’s always the possibility of art project or ceremonial burning at some future date. That and the program for “Hansel and Gretel” from 3rd or 4th grade. I had the part of Dawn Fairy. Non-speaking and magical. Perfect. My cousin was one of the 14 angels.

This is how I spent my weekend. Nursing a cold, enjoying an evening bath, reading up on the love or connection of “Twin Flame” and working on the “magical art of tidying up/purging” that is an on-going goal for 2018. Notice the ease and liberal use of the word “goal” –something I find very difficult to say or set or complete. Hence I prefer “dream”. This came up recently in conversation and in response to a friend who blogged about the difference between 99% and 100%. Basically it is COMMITMENT to the process and DISCIPLINE to a deadline. Hmm. And for me a big fear to put out on the table.  So I say it proudly knowing at least on some level I can own a goal. In this case it is definitive. I’m dealing with stuff. It’s concrete and tangible and I don’t have to leave the house or commit to a time or daily practice. Aha!! Maybe it’s just a dream afterall.

Afterall I am a dreamer though uncertain of the dream. I’m working on that too. A specific life affirming or life changing DREAM. Yes, in all caps. For without the dream how do you actually achieve it –the shift? The move to Europe. The commitment to love. The manuscript of some kind be it poetry or essay or ramblings of an unconventional mind. The action. Oh that’s right. A dream is ephemeral. A goal takes action. It’s like a pop-up/alert on your computer. Okay. Go away. I don’t really want to be reminded but I am. I struggle with fear to COMMIT to an ideal (even a yoga practice) opting to  give my life to intuition or knowing or the law of attraction. Or luck. My experience in life is that people and jobs and ideas simply show up: by dream (of the nighttime kind), on the trail or literally knock at my front door. I suppose if I’m fine with that it works or maybe I’m making excuses –it’s possible. I’m willing to admit it. 2018 is about truth. About vulnerability. Ouch!! I’m breathing heavy and not in a sexy way. This dream/goal/opening up is not for the feint of heart. Which brings me back to “the dream” –-how does one go about achieving the dream/goal if you aren’t clear what the dream looks like? –an ephemeral vague “I want to walk around the world/write/be free” kind of dream. Time to be inventive. To open myself to the visible. To gifts of the possible. To extend a hand to commitment.

Life is accelerating in interesting ways or maybe I’m paying better attention. Crawling out of my shell for longer periods of time. Taking a whiff and a longer walk around the neighborhood, foraging onto tempting paths of curiosity and joy and truth. Opening my heart to intimacy and the possibility of love even if that leads to heartbreak on the horizon. I’m ready. It’s time.

Brenda is an artist. A Personal Assistant to interesting women and an occasional poet living in Santa Fe. She has a love of wine, writing, walking, water and travel. Her work is mostly in her head though has hung in a few galleries over the years and is published in Cirque Journal and Calyx.


Posted in Blog, Dream/Goals, Free Writings

Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing


Several months ago I was invited to create a piece about my relationship with my mother for an exhibit curated by Esther Hong that opens Friday 9.4.15 at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (IGCA) in Anchorage.  My old stomping grounds. How could I refuse. Grateful for the invitation. Grateful for the inspiration and creative direction.  Now what –?

Beauty Betty Bingo –that much I knew. Maybe a hand of euchre or two. Are those special cards or regular? I really didn’t know. Later my family laughed when I told them I went on Amazon trying to buy a Euchre deck. I checked Walgreens and CVS too.

It’s a Michigan thing.

Since January I have been working with natural linen, pieces of canvas, old and new photographs, negatives and discarded silk in the vein of a Primitive Seamstress.  I decided to continue with this materiality. Initially cutting and stitching all these disparate materials together as some kind of scroll. Attach them to an old wooden rolling pin. What about that vintage potato masher?  That might be cool. We ate a lot of potatoes growing up –I’ve been wanting to do scrolls with rolling pins for years. . .but alas it was not to be. A friend made a suggestion and the idea developed. Bingo! As it does. Literally. Art morphs.


 Somewhere in all this stitching my stepfather died. The family gathered.

There were decisions to make in the execution and later in the installation.  The negatives made it too stiff for rolling but not for hanging and so hang they will but by line or by chain or some cool miniature hardware that would make it look –well finished? I tend more toward the conceptual. Lots of undone and nothing exact so I let that go. Clips and clothespins.  Keep it simple. Keep it real.  The theme of a photograph still developing. Our relationship still developing.  Love you mom and so happy you’re still here and alive in the world.  The clothesline works to represent both the rural America of my childhood and the line where photographs are hung to dry in a darkroom.  So many metaphors.  Memories. The tangle of threads. A button. A live birth.  A game of cards. A gamble. Stitching a life together. Love. The beauty. All that laundry.


I hope you can make the opening –and if you do–Thank you!!

Brenda is a visual artist and occasional poet currently living in Santa Fe, NM.  Her piece: Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing is part of an invitational group exhibition opening at the IGCA this week in Anchorage, Alaska.

Posted in Brenda Roper, Studio Art Tagged , , , , , , |

Leaves of Grass: Water, Field, Canyon, Cattail


One hour to madness and joy! O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)


O the puzzle, the thrice-tied knot, the deep and dark pool, all
untied and illumin’d!
O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last!
To be absolv’d from previous ties and conventions, I from mine and
you from yours!

To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature!
To have the gag remov’d from one’s mouth!
To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am.


O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
To escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts, with invitations!
To ascend, to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!

To rise thither with my inebriate soul!
To be lost if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.

Walt Whitman (condensed version)


She stood in the arroyo and cried.

Sat on the long bench overlooking her childhood –so much memory in rural

in field

the early desert days 17 years ago + 15 before that and who she was then

in canyon

the map rolled open before her

the mountains

the men

the fork in the road


the hummingbird demands attention and why not . . .

such beauty in flutter

the hike the pond the bath

flow together weave and stitch and surrender

a dive into water  opens the heart

and when the head rests floating the body floating the sound of bullfrog croak

a duck a bird a wind through long grass and cattail


a life –and lichen

Cliff River Springs

Brenda is a visual artist and occasional poet currently living in Santa Fe, NM.  Her piece: Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing is part of an invitational group exhibition opening at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (IGCA) in Anchorage, Alaska on September 4th.

Posted in Brenda Roper, Studio Art Tagged , , , , , , , |

Visionomatic & other Artful Images



A few notes from an artful weekend. It began with wine & roses at Casa Rondena in honor of a graduate (thank you Kate & congratulations!!), an overnight retreat at a cheerful Victoria airbnb (with a pink claw foot tub –yes fabulous) in a historic downtown ABQ neighbor –walking distance to the famed Artichoke Café and the Grove Café & Market. I enjoyed them both immensely. One in the company of a dear friend and one in my own good company.

Beauty Betty & Bingo

Beauty Betty & Bingo

New territory and exactly what was needed, apparently, to jump start my “mother” project for upcoming exhibit in Alaska.

Happy Mother’s Day too!!  Love you Mom.

A change of scenery. A gathering with friends. Good food. A little shopping. A lot of art. Big skies and blustery weather with swirling clouds that only caused to invigorate the spirit. Especially after a “happen upon” #34 at the Placitas Studio Tour. Roger Evans. The imagination of a visionary with wild abandon, and Barnum too, right out of the (animal) cracker box. That experience filled me with such heart and possibility I thought I might fly away. . . with the pig. Or the aliens.  He offers the option of both. And a snapdragon for the ladies. Thank you. If you haven’t been you can visit by appointment. I wouldn’t wait. Go NOW.  A few images to tease you. I might add there was a moment of snow falling (though no accummulation).  It only heightened the joy.


the vision of Roger Evans:  art, life, living, sculpture, imagination


If you haven’t been to Metallo Gallery in Madrid please do that too. The fifth annual miniature exhibit is up through May. Fun stuff and much of it under $100. All work is 6”x6” or under and represents emerging to well-known New Mexican artists. Here’s a glimpse. . .

Metallo Gallery Miniature Exhibit20150510_135709Brenda Roper Primitive Seamstress20150510_135443-1

And of course a trip to Madrid is always a treat.


See you later. . .

Brenda is an artist and occasional poet who lives on a one-way alley in a historic neighborhood in downtown Santa Fe.  She continues work on her Primitive Seamstress Series in between walking dogs, wine tasting, and travel.  Studio visits welcome and by appointment.

Posted in Blog, Studio Art Tagged , , , |

The Path of Finding Your True Nature


I recently read a blog by a writer, a kindred spirit, on a DIY Retreat. Do it yourself.  She mentions solitude.  How it can suck you into a place so deep you blink when you come back, face to face with a real person.  The point when one goes away for a month is generally to focus uninterrupted into a deeper level of creativity.  A time to reflect and walk or run and write or art.  To swim and dream and grieve.  To feel. To find yourself flowing in the current of a project from your heart, or simply free yourself from the day to day routine, to allow access to the deeper parts of language.  To beginnings and prompts and pay attention.


I think back to my own DIY Art Retreat.  The joy of waking each day into one of my own making.  It felt simple.  Though I had no income I did not worry.  My work before me.  My focus.  My abundance on the table.  It was there and rising like homemade bread.  The beauty of being present in each moment.  In the stitch and the idea.  In the walk on the beach.  In the reflection of the cypress.  Sometimes the phone call from a friend felt intrusive as I made my way back to the surface to engage in that voice to voice world.  Emerging from deeper and further and far.


Since I’ve returned I write a poem entitled “Missing January” as the world runs forward and I scramble to catch up.  Already March.  Spring is coming.  Daylight has sprung forward. Rain in the forecast.  Lovely all and despite the 7 inches of snow on Friday the ground outside my window is already bare.  Warmed by the sun. The snow melt deeply inhaled by the shallow roots of the high desert.

his Solitude (underpinning) --detail

But it is the significance of solitude. How easy to slip into that place devoid of interaction with others.  Face to face. During my retreat there were times I asked myself did I speak to another person today, out loud, or only respond to the thoughts inside my head? I asked myself this nearly everyday for 30 days — though there were interactions. In passing with my respectful host or the cashier at the grocery store or an exchange at the Farmer’s Market. A nod to a person on the path and once a real conversation with a woman at a florist setting out pots of pansies.  She had moved from Michigan and warned me against the road south to Apalachicola and the high crime in St. Pete. Though I went anyway and loved them both.

winterchairsnowInteraction can be dangerous.  The fear and opinions of others can sway or change your mood entirely.  Take you out and away and far, or it can circle back to self-reflection.  That is what I’m learning.  About myself.  The importance to socialize or engage with people; friends or strangers or within a community, is to spring yourself into the battle zone.  Often there is reward.  I am learning who I am through my ability, or lack of, this face to face blink in the sunlight interaction with other people.  It can be painful, tight-in-the-chest want to control anxiety, or equally delightful. An indicator to the better path.  The most true.  The joy of easy friendship and mutual admiration and connection. And to the discomfort of standing up, taking charge, saying no or redirecting and breaking the pattern that leads to nowhere new.  The guilt and letting go and acceptance.

tulipsdaffodilFleshnotafamily detail taoschurchskybarn

A friend of mine wrote this line:  the birds are still enthusiastic in spring.  I hear them now this sunny morning.  Monday.  The opportunities are mine for the taking if only I value myself. Enough. Know my heart and honor my true nature: art, writing, photography, walking, wine and travel.  Quietude and ocean and family and friendship.  The occasional roasted chicken.  The possibility of direction becomes obvious.  Trusting that it will.  And always imagination.  To color outside the lines and take the path less traveled by — if that be yours.  Go now.


Brenda lives in a small casita in Santa Fe, NM where she continues to work on her Primitive Seamstress series. Watch for her work in the upcoming miniatures show at Metallo Gallery in Madrid.  Dates TBA.



Posted in Artist retreat, Studio Art, Travel Tagged , , , |

Primitive Seamstress: Last week of the Artist Retreat


Firstly I want to thank those of you that recognize and honor this month away from my day job: Personal Assistant (that has me schlepping from housesit to dog walk, from Point A to Point B,  to the P.O or shoe repair to consignment shop or up the down staircase and no guarantee of income except the consistent 12 hours M/W/F afternoons) that this is an Artist Retreat. It is not a vacation.

Vacation conjures up dinners on foreign sidewalks, frolic in the ocean and the chance for intimate encounter, hmmm maybe an Italian chef who sings and plays guitar.  Paid time off (gasp)! –That is not this.  In the corporate world this might be a business trip with reimbursement and expense account.  Not that either.

This is beautiful.  Perfect.  Present.  — except these brief distractions of explanation–forgive me.  So now I’ve said it.


Granted there are vacation similarities and the possibility of most of the above. Maybe just semantics but still. The Artist Retreat comes with intention and a whole lot of solitude (which is the point).

A time to focus on the pursuit of the Primitive Seamstress, long walks on a long beach, and to thrive in the salt air that is too cold for swimming, in its perfect off-season bursts of fog and red flag days to amazing emerald calm and too early for tourists. This is gifted time away from the demands of daily life. Time to indulge in the creative process uninterrupted by obligation to others, though not completely cut off of course. There is wifi and I partook in the recent Facebook Artist Challenge. Thank you Katherine Coons for the nomination.

True it is of my own making. Thank you Brenda. Best gift I’ve ever given myself.  No Creative Capital or Lannan Foundation funding though I am grateful for the generosity of a few who bought into the art exchange/donation that helped with gas money for the 4 day road trip from Santa Fe to Santa Rosa Beach (1400 miles +).


And it has been fruitful.  The Primitive Seamstress Series well underway.

An honest beginning.

And the blog and the Thursday poem.


BrecopperriverI think back to other times I’ve taken leaps of faith for adventure.  A 28 day backpacking trip through the Escalante canyons of Utah. In June. Bare bones. A blanket and a cup.  At 22.  I lost 13 pounds. Ten months later I quit school early to raft the Grand Canyon for 21 days.  1983. Again 8 years later. These were in a life long before I realized I was an artist. Since then there have been trips to Mexico for painting and poetry and Spanish lessons.  A bicycle tour in Tuscany. A month at the Vermont Studio Center and four years at El Zaguan on Canyon Road.

A friend posted a quote on FB recently (below).  Some might find it corny but it resonated with me in my forever search for purpose, identity, a safe place to reside, a creative balance — how to proceed toward ‘the dream’ if you don’t know what it is –and how does a person not know their dream?  Wow! that is the question.


If you can’t figure out your purpose
figure out your passion.
For your passion will lead you
right into your purpose.
                   —Bishop T.D. Jakes

I know that travel is a passion.  Process my vehicle.  That the first step is to value yourself.  To create your own happiness.  To write your own dream. To let go of judgment (self and others) and to take a deep breath and open the door.  Who knows where it might lead you.



Sometimes I dream of flying over the Chugach

Brenda is a visual artist and occasional poet who lives in Santa Fe, NM.  She is currently at an Artist Retreat in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  Her work can be seen at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (IGCA) in Anchorage in February 2015 or visit Art Happenings.  Studio visits welcome and by appointment.

Posted in Artist retreat, Blog, Santa Rosa Beach, Travel Tagged , , , , |

The occasional poet and the cypress

Artist Retreat updates from the occasional poet and the primitive seamstress (we are one and the same in case you are wondering. . .).  On the stitching front I finished number 13 and moving forward.  Lots of threads.  Loose and delicious.  I love it all.  Sea salt & vinegar and fog on the beach –who knew I liked IPA–?  NPR by morning and a daily walk through the cypress where I recently met an Australian labradoodle named Murphy. The turtle evades me though I’ve received this tip to look where the bridge bends to the right.  That place where I spotted two red-bellied woodpeckers.  Common to this part of Florida.


Primitive Seamstress series #13


A few months ago my friend Mike Burwell (the Cartography of Water) and I decided to get back to a writing group.  Small.  Just the two of us.  By doing a poem a week.  We’ve dubbed it the Thursday poem.

It all began the summer of 2005 in Anchorage, or maybe it began in Homer when we all met at the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference.  At Land’s End.  In the bar no doubt.  After listening to Billy Collins.  It included myself, Mike, and James P. Sweeney (A Thousand Prayers) who is also on the current season of Ultimate Survival Alaska.  Jim is too busy pissing people off and getting his book published to participate but Mike and I have been sharing a Thursday poem.  It is great motivation, and like everything in 2015, I’ve come to consider them beginnings.  Enough.  A start. Let go of judgement. Write. Share. The editing comes later.  A different approach than in Alaska where we tried to bring our most polished work to the table.  Both are acceptable formats.

Full disclosure:  I have no book.  Not even a worthy manuscript.  (not yet) –In fact this particular day of the Thursday poem I was so inspired (and defeated) by another poet that I nearly didn’t write a poem at all.  I felt unworthy.  How she flitted, like a hummingbird from right to left and tab far to the right and back again and it all worked so well. . . the alliteration, and I so safe (wearing the big panties) with my line breaks and hugging the left margin to the point of boredom.  Blah blah blah.  So imagine my surprise when my Thursday poet partner responds that he loves it all from top to bottom on the first draft.  Wow.  And so today I bring you said poem.

On the 8th day

I am cypress in a residential swamp
not uncommon not   not great my hips
swell wide at the border
in the company of lily pads  waft
across the shadow                            stir
waxy green upon the water                                               
            the turtle        promenade
does not care to win the race
who’s on first does not matter        discipline
            or disciple we are all god gifted
spreading wider        the Great Blue           heron              flies
            not without a scene
            screaming at interruption is redemption
for the unobservant.
Pray attention
or perhaps I am the bead of water
carefully cupped at the breast of stillness
all gathered wetness
            an offering     back    to sky
shadows long and dark go both ways
            across reflection                                . . .ripple. . .     
I am accumulation of whisper and dew drop
a pause upon the cusp         of Grace
The knees knobby (like) amputated stumps
protrude up and out            in sameness
not matched or exact           
            not not twin or triplet          
            not self-conscious or flattered         only raw
not cruel or kind the alligator rests
Brenda Roper (2015)

Brenda is a visual artist and occasional poet who lives in Santa Fe, NM.  She is currently at an Artist Retreat in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  Her work can be seen at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (IGCA) in Anchorage in February 2015 or visit Art Happenings.  Studio visits welcome and by appointment.

Posted in Artist retreat, Blog, Poetry, Santa Rosa Beach Tagged , , , , , , |

Primitive Seamstress: in the beginning


Beginning:  the point in time or space at which something starts. To Begin.   Such as a New Year, rife with opportunity for growth and change.  For personal improvements:

  • err on the side of kindness
  • open yourself to connection
  • let go of judgment
  • practice tolerance
  • give in to adventure
  • nourish your curiosity
  • honor your gifts
  • be true to your nature/direction
  • art and dance and yoga too.

Some call these resolutions though too often they are toasted to at the midnight hour, at the tipping of the champagne into the glass and too soon forgotten.  But the celebration and awareness of said intention is always good.  Right?  Every beginning begins with a kernel of thought or action.  One step forward.  A sentence.  A phone call. An email.  Or simply opening the door and walking outside into a new day, or a new life or loading your trusty Subaru and driving 4 days across the country to a new place.

IMG_9020If only temporarily.  You are forever changed.  The moon jellies on the beach unlike anything ever seen before are amazing.  Thick and translucent and other worldly. A great blue heron takes flight startled by your passing. The cypress is a muse.  The sand is flat and pure like the skin of babies, goes on for miles uninterrupted except for the clearing of thoughts.  Three dolphin dip and roll shimmering through the reflection of late afternoon. And so my beginning (January 2015) brings me to a place of retreat.  A journey and a place. A little cottage near a cypress swamp and a 15 minute walk to the beach.  It is perfect.  I am perfect.  The sewing is primitive.  I am the perfect primitive seamstress.

The threads hang haphazard (I kind of like that) and I hope they hold.  The thread falls out of the needle repeatedly until I pull out the instructions for threading the machine and realize I skipped step number 4 –oh!  Good to know.  Occasionally the bobbin jams.  I waste a lot of thread in trial by error.  But it is freeing too.  To begin.  I sew standing up at the small kitchen counter.  It seems to work well for my start, stop, grab, cut –design, knot, pause.  This is not a scientific approach. Here are a few samples:

IMG_9029panelpocket beginningsgrandma pocket

I come with intention.  To create 100 6”x8” (or so) linen pockets to hold secrets or photos or ideas or forgiveness –sew and knot or wrap with barbed wire or ribbon.  A little gesso. A line.  Graphite.  A cork.  It is a loose plan. In my experience art projects begin with imagination.  A vision that morphs into something long and far and seldom exact.  The logic to the abstract.  Or the abstract to the logic.  It goes both ways.  Eventually.


When I wake on Saturday in this delicious space –into time and a trip to the Farmer’s Market I wonder at the purpose of “pocket”.  What was the point again?  Is pocket important?  My dreaming opens me to other options.  To stitch a narrative before I sew it closed.  To leave access to experiment instead of backtrack or undo or after-the-fact.  Thank goodness for the subconscious.  It really directs my life.  And so I have both.  Pockets filled or not and flat stitched pieces that I call panels though they are not attached to a hard surface.  Or any surface.  Yet.  The exercise on this Artist Retreat is to simply begin. To create without judgment.  And so I do.


Brenda Roper is a Personal Assistant & Contemporary Artist in Santa Fe, NM.  She is taking the month of January for an Artist Retreat in Santa Rosa Beach.  To explore new work in fiber, continue her Thursday poem and other writings, walk the beach and draw inspiration from her newest muse the cypress swamp.  Your support and donations are appreciated.  A little help for the time not working (the day job).  For the just in case.  For the gas (despite the drop in prices). For the inspiration and leap of faith.  For the belief that art matters.  Think of it as an exchange.  A gift that goes both ways.

  • For any donation of $25 or more you will receive a hand-made artist card
  • For any donation of $100 or more you will receive an original print in 11″x14″ mat ready for framing
  • For any donation of $200 or more (if you have deep pockets of generosity) you will receive one of my 12″x12″ painterly photographs

bisbeepeacesnow and crossIMG_8852

Paypal is preferred.  Please include your correct mailing address.  Click here to dreamcafe943@yahoo.com.  If you prefer to mail a check please send it to Brenda Roper 991 1/2 Don Manuel Street #B, Santa Fe, NM 87505.  Gifts will be sent as received.  Donations by check will be fulfilled upon my return to Santa Fe in February.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you forever and in advance.  Especially to those who have already donated and you know who you are.

Happy New Year!!


Posted in Artist retreat, Blog, Santa Rosa Beach, Studio Art, Travel Tagged , , , |