Advent Day Thirteen
December 13, 2012
Advent Day Fifteen
December 15, 2012
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Advent Day Fourteen: Antlers

Advent Day Fourteen

In 2008, I spent two weeks in the Denali Wilderness as part of the National Parks Artist-in-Residence program. Doug came with me. It was just the two of us in a little cabin at mile 42. Not a soul for miles and miles and miles. We spent our days finding our own trails through the tundra. I read topo maps to plan our hikes, while Doug made sure we went out with all the appropriate gear. One of the days we visited the kettle ponds. Kettle ponds are shallow bodies of water filled by retreating glaciers. Doug decided to baptize himself in this frigid water–I tried, got up to my arm pits and just could not fully immerse myself.

So instead I pouted. I was so unbelievably mad at myself for my failure to immerse myself in that ridiculously cold water. Doug could not cajole me out of my funk. I snapped, stomped and simmered. (My family can attest to how unpleasant a Melanie pout can be.) And then I was mad at myself for pouting, which made it worse. I really had no idea how I would get out of this particular funk. We had to keep walking to get back to our cabin. I decided to not take us back the way we came and instead, went down to the East Fork River to look for rocks on the way back.

But what I found instead was a full rack of antlers, discarded from a caribou. In just that instant, my mood changed. While I was still bummed that I could not fully immerse myself in the cold water, I was able to put it into perspective thanks to the antlers. (Which I wore, all 15 pounds of them, all the way back to our cabin.)

Why am I sharing this story?

Because I needed to find my antlers today. I’ve been suffering from some sort of coughing thing for the past few days. I even took a sick day and went home early from work. I never take sick days. And I have a number of social and work obligations over the next little while. So big deal, right? Well I also decided to do the master cleanse on top of this–I knew the timing wasn’t perfect, but I thought I could do it if everyone else in my house was doing it. Well I was wrong. And so I started to pout.

Then Doug said to me this morning, “You need to find your antlers.”

And I did. I spent the morning at IS183 in my friend Karen Arp-Sandel’s fabulous collage class. I took the class a couple of years ago and it has inspired all kinds of different ways of working in my studio, including these collages. I began looking through some of the incredible vintage and found papers in her collection, tearing out ones that seemed the most interesting. And then I found the bejeweled something or other on the cover of Art&Auction with the lovely orange coral that looks like antlers. So this collage is what pulled me out of my master cleanse failure, in a snap. Just like that. Gone. Over.

Special thanks to Suzi Banks Baum for the awesome mountain paper!

I’m still going to do a cleanse while the men in my house are doing theirs. But one that allows me to eat. I’ll eat lots of rice and drink lots of tea over the next week, no caffeine, chocolate, meat or dairy. So pretty much a vegan diet. And I’ll continue to make my collages, write, draw, and oh, right, finish my grading.





  1. I am with you Mel. Making art part of my mindfulness practice clears out a lot of other stuff. And finding a eating style that keeps me grounded makes everything easier. What a joy it was to be with you yesterday. The tables were happy! And, what I mean to say is, not that everything should be easy, lalala, but that when we take the steep route of a cleanse or period of silence, and our daily lives crash in, the steep route requires us to take the line of incline that demands of us what we can give. Self sacrifice cannot contain scarring or shame. There is no cleansing there. Just more shit.
    So, onward with your gorgeous transparency here and in your art work.
    I love playing with you.
    xooxox S

  2. Melanie says:

    So good to see you yesterday–the inspiration I get from all of you working together in Karen’s class. Wish I could bottle that energy up sometimes.
    Oh how I agree with you that not everything should be easy, but walking that fine line between what something demands and what we can give–to have the wisdom to know when to push through and when to let go. That is the challenge.
    see you soon xoxo m

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