Plaster skies


The sky is not quite white or gray today. It hangs overhead as a solid color with no gradation, completely flat. It feels like I could reach up and touch the center of the sky and that my hand would then look like I had dipped it in a bucket of cold, wet plaster. But below this plaster veil, what remains of the fall leaves is stunning.They pop with extra vibrance. It is as if, they have been plugged in. Chartreuse greens, electric golds and my favorite vermillion sprinkled in-between. There are now trees that are completely bare. They have shed this year’s story. Their bare branches and sticks remain exposed against the cold sky. I am learning, ever so slowly to appreciate the message of fall. I know many who love this season. They are finally getting to me and opening my eyes. I have refused to see nothing but death and sadness this time of year. I have struggled and battled with the sense of loss I feel this time of year. Perhaps since my birthday is this season, I say goodbye to another year of my life, see goals not realized, and vainly when I look in the mirror or down at my hands wrinkled hands with knobby knuckles that time has indeed passed- it is all so very selfish. I am fortunate to have lived to the point where the lines on my face remind me of the fullness of my life- the magical days, the impossible days and all of those in-between.  I am lucky enough to have these old looking hands to turn the soil, hold a paint brush, hug my beautiful children, hold Chris’ old worn hands, pet my loyal and loving dogs  and write to searching for perspective.

It is just so still outside. The Aspen leaves just droop, nothing is moving. It is looks like time has stopped for a brief period. But beyond the white plaster sky, the busyness of the world is tremendously overwhelming. To think of all the motion going on globally, it seems impossible that these leaves can be so still. Can’t they feel the parents’ sobbing for their child who just passed away, can’t they feel the laughter from the playground down the street, can’t they feel the buzz of the highway, can’t they feel the oceans crashing to shore thousands of miles away. Or perhaps they are too tired? They are done telling their story. They will drop to the earth and slowly disintegrate into the soil to feed next years growth. Soon the trees they fall from will be standing with their limbs and twisted twigs exposed. They will look vulnerable but will be lighter and more prepared to take on the harshness of winter. Their time for providing protective shade isn’t needed now. We can see their beautiful lines reaching up to the sky. We can see how they have grown and become their beautiful, unique form even with cracks and knots and scars. As I age, I can see the value of this season. It is still uncomfortable, but becomes more beautiful each year. I am grateful to all of you who have shared your love of this season with me. You are helping my branches grow.

Healing Waters

Healing Waters


Yesterday morning, I went down to my studio to paint for just me. Not for the artisan fair, not for the CF Gala coming up (though I should be and it is fun), and not for the show next spring. I wanted to get back to that place on the canvas where I could find my center. I haven’t been feeling well lately. Like most of us, I am worn down and at times feel like I could shatter like glass. Dealing with craziness and frustration of thyroid and adrenal disfunction is maddening and even though I know self care is necessary, I haven’t been good about it on so many levels… that is a long, internal and boring battle.

So while, still in my pajamas, I turned on some favorite music; Bach’s organ works. I chose my color palette to find some peace in the now. A smokey lilac and a gray blue to start. I wanted to get back to my skies. I have missed them.  Slowly, I tuned out my responsibility as a mother, wife, friend, homeowner, sister, daughter, dog-owner, hostess, community member, “taxi” driver, gardener and eventually got lost in the music and paints. Almost as if in a panic to get rid of that white canvas, my strokes started out frantic began to become more sedate and so did I. And sure enough, there came my water that I crave and miss. I still can’t believe I am so landlocked. I am so grateful to have beautiful Long’s Pond up the road, but I miss the ocean. Someone once said to me “you artists are always doing the same thing over and over.”  Yes and no…at times it is true. For me, it is a form of meditation when I paint in this mode. Back and forth across the canvas, numb in color.  I could feel myself floating over gentle waves, soaking up the blue.. not quite sure where the sky ended and the water began… a faint horizon line. I wanted it blurred so I could feel the expanse of time and space. My heart rate steadied, the music floated through my blood stream and my breath calmed. This is why I paint. It heals me. It takes me to places I can’t physically get to and allows me to escape to a peaceful place within myself making me feel healthy, stable and whole. I can float and find footing at the same time in those healing waters I create and then I am ready to challenge myself again.


The pronunciation of our last name has come up a lot lately. It is an easy one to butcher and get wrong. Our last name is Giglio pronounced  jill- E- o but most often it comes out  JIG- leo

and even on occasion jige-LO ???

Nice, huh?

I remember back to when my mother-in-law was a substitute teacher for my sister and as a third grader called her Mrs. Jello. Chris was called Gigs growing up. (As high school sweet hearts from a small town, Chris and I have these old stories) Yesterday, I overheard the boys cracking up about how and when people have messed up our name. But, when someone gets it right, they are over the moon. The principal at Alex’s school now calls him Giglio (pronounced correctly) and he beams with pride. The name Giglio is one associated with beauty and meaning. It translates to lily, which in Italian is the iris. Read more here. Similar to the Fleur-de-lis, it instead has five petals instead of three. It is great fun to have this icon associated with our name. We have the flag of Florence which appropriately for our family has 5 Giglios on it. Our garden is full of iris of all shades. They are on our plates, glasses, doorstops, jewelry, etc.  Chris and I have been to the Isola del Giglio where we were the only Americans and people there were baffled we were there and in SHOCK that our last name was indeed Giglio. I even had to show an elderly man my passport to get him to believe me. In turn, we were given tremendous service and attention while there. It was a hoot! We dined at Restaurante Giglio in Lucca with Chris’s family for his parents’ 40th and the menu is in our dining room. The name has taken us to wonderful places and given us some favorite memories. But the man who gave us this name is who is really on my mind and heart. Chris’s dad aka Mr.G  is a gentleman to the core. I met him 25 years ago when I was just 15.

Double date to a wedding in Richmond 1993
Double date to a wedding in Richmond 1993

He watched me grow up along side his son and was nothing but supportive and caring as we stumbled along to find our footing into adulthood and eventually marriage. He was Chris’s best man.

Mr G. (the far right) Chris's best man!
Mr G. (the far right) Chris’s best man!

In my studio I have a print of a young girl running with all of her art supplies under her arm that is in a frame that he made. Right now, Chachi sits at a table eating a snack that his grandfather proudly made with his hands. But Mr. G has given us so much more than his woodworking creations. He gave Chris a tremendous sense of what is right and wrong, a ridiculous work ethic, the importance of being a part of a community and an authenticity of being a true gentleman. And to me he always finds a quiet moment to sneak in a wonderful and heartfelt compliment. I cherish those words dearly. Right now he isn’t feeling well and Chris and I feel like we might as well be on the moon. If only we could put Colorado where West Virginia is. Chris will soon be going to lend a hand around their house and hopefully get in some fishing time with his Dad and brother to just enjoy the company and the day. Mr. G. is a great story teller. One of my favorites is that he had to be taken to first grade in a cab and checked in to school or otherwise he would just go roam for the day. He would rather be outside than anywhere, so it makes perfect sense.

Off to fish at Becky's pond
Off to fish at Becky’s pond

I now have three boys who have his name. It feels like a huge responsibility to instill in them those hardworking, genuine, and sweet gentleman qualities that seem to come with the name. I am lucky to have my four Giglio guys here under roof and so fortunate to have had Mr. G lead the way. I will always be grateful that this loving man is a part of who I am and that I have the honor of being a Giglio, too.

with the next generation of Giglios
Mr. and Mrs. G with the next generation of Giglios

Endless Summer

Last night a friend of mine put a very honest post on Facebook about the passing of her father. It was straight-forward and bittersweet. It was real. It was refreshing. As I went through my day today, I kept thinking about her pure honesty, her lesson learned and her gratitude. It helped me embrace the sunshine more as we gear up to wake up to snow tomorrow. (I am in complete denial about it and if we are talking about being real.. rather grumpy about it, too!) So I picked all of the tomatoes, kale and rhubarb, dug up the potatoes and enjoyed my bare-feet in the grass while eating the last of the raspberries. It felt luxurious as I ignored the state of the inside of my home and slowly worked my way around the beds. I then moved onto the flowers and lavender… so lovely.. so sad to see the color go.

My own father called to tell me that he and Diane were going to come up on Sunday for the Artisan Fair that Chris and I have been making things for and to see my mural in the hay-barn. It meant the world.

And then, all of a sudden I had 10 minutes before it was time to go gather boys and begin distributing them to activities. Scramble… did I even brush my teeth today? I should put on clothes that don’t have paint and holes it… HA! There is nothing in the fridge or pantry…damn it. I was suppose to go to the store. Fried green tomatoes anyone? Where are the dogs? and my keys?

I manage to get there on time and see my sweet friends and sister for a few minutes. Then we are off! I drop boys at soccer and Charlie and I head to the grocery store and manage to fill the cart to the brim in an hour. Meanwhile, the temperature has dropped, the gray clouds are rolling in and I feel like the world is closing in on me. I am not ready to say goodbye to the green, the light, and having bare-feet. I fight fall every year. Yes, the light casting long beautiful shadows is stunning, but it means I have to say goodbye to dirt under my nails for a long 6 or so months. It is so strange to just turn off this big part of me for half the year. Each year I try to find the silver lining, but I really, truly miss tending my little corner of the world. My moods sinks.

Back at home, the boys and I bust through the front door with our bags and reality hits. The sink is full of dishes and I forgot to run the dishwasher this morning.  We have to maneuver around buckets of laundry and stuff is everywhere. I can feel myself winding up and feeling overwhelmed over these little things that I know in the big picture don’t matter. So I ditch the bags on the kitchen floor and during the last few bits of daylight, I go and cover the rest of my garden, hoping to save the arugula, lettuce and herbs. I use some old white drop clothes and almost feel like there should be peaceful, dead bodies underneath. My dark thoughts catch me off guard and the uncomfortableness of death sits heavy with me.  The anticipation of those we will lose in the next decade is overwhelming at times. The fact that there is no guarantee for a tomorrow for any of us, takes my breath away. Embrace the snow and the cold, Catherine. It brings snuggles by the fire, holidays with family and friends and big comfy sweaters to go with my jeans. But still that twinge of frustration lingers. What is wrong with me?

I head back in and get to work unloading groceries and making the boys dinner. Charlie picked out turkey dogs, green beans and mac n cheese.  Chris is helping a friend today (a whole different story) so nothing gourmet happening in the kitchen tonight. All three are talking to me at once and I realize more than anything that I am just exhausted. Plain tired. So frickin’ tired, I will eat a damn hotdog.

But then I am saved by the bell.. the doorbell. There standing on my porch, my wonderful friend and neighbor Betsy is offering me warm carrot-ginger soup with toasted pumpkin seeds. I almost kissed her!  We sit to dinner and I look down to my place setting. It is this gorgeous and yummy soup, green beans in a penguin bowl, and a much needed bourbon and coke all on top of  “The Presidents of the United States of America” laminated placemat.

Well-balanced meal.. carrot-ginger soup from Betsy, green beans with a bourbon and coke!
Well-balanced meal.. carrot-ginger soup from Betsy, green beans with a bourbon and coke!

To my left on the floor is a bucket of laundry, but to my right and across from me are the three most beautiful, often annoying, funny, loving, and exhausting boys. They are my real light. I know when I hit the fall of my life, I am really going to struggle. Right now, I feel like these years are my summer. And,even with all the mess, chaos and exhaustion, I find myself wishing for this to be an endless summer.