Post Número Seis: The Balance of a Snowbird Lifestyle
“Love where you live, and love who you are. There is only one of you.” – Me
On Thursday, July 18th I drove up to Creative Pinellas in Largo to participate in a panel conversation with the 9 other awarded Emerging Artist grantees. It was the first time I got to meet in person both the grant director, Danny Olda, and the other amazing artists awarded this spectacular grant. I arrived early to meet with Danny and see the gallery where the final show will be exhibited. It’s stunning! And huge. And was the kick in the rear I needed to get to work.
During our panel conversation, Danny presented each of the artists with two prepared questions and then opened the conversation up to the audience. I was the first batter up (“Ayres” is both a blessing and a curse, always the first up through my school years), a blessing in this instance because it eliminated any opportunity to overthink or get nervous. He asked me about the transition from living in Vermont to Florida and how it has shaped my art. I love Vermont and appreciate so much how it influenced me into the person I am today. The untouched landscapes of Vermont makes it incredibly easy to immerse oneself into the natural world. As an empath with an environmental bend, I reboot best in nature. As a child, I was outdoors playing for much of my free time. Even in winter, I got outside to build mazes in the snow and skate on the nearby icy cornfields with my siblings until our fingers and toes were numb with cold.
However, there was always a period of the year when it felt nearly impossible to get enough time outside. Ice held the snow hostage, the sun did not come out for weeks it seemed and the wind stung like whips against already chapped skin. As a fair, redheaded child, I hated this time of year. I was sensitive to the cold, dry climate. My skin chapped and I felt trapped. In addition, it felt like summer was much too short and rarely did it get hot enough for my liking. I yearned for long days filled with heat and sun that would never go away. Those things felt painfully fleeting in VT and when they did arrive, I felt anxious knowing they’d be gone far too soon.
My 32 years in Vermont is the basis of who I am. Vermont provided a connection to the natural world without my even trying. It was just there. A constant. My normal. It is the reason I paint: to be a part of the solution. I believe that staying engaged with and preserving the place that is our home is the most important element to our continued evolution.
When I vacationed in Gulfport and Treasure Island almost six years ago, I knew I’d landed somewhere I wanted to spend more time. The colors, skies and tropical flora excited me. It was so different from the terrain I knew, and so WARM!!! St Petersburg is to me what New Mexico was to Ms. O’Keeffe. I felt like, duh! Why didn’t I move somewhere like this sooner? Well, because I didn’t yet know that it existed. It also felt that a person of my nature may be helpful in a place like Florida, more so than Vermont where I fit right in. The natural world thrills me here: the storms, the heat, the energy, the plants, the sea. It fuels my soul. Things are quite convenient here: there are grocery stores a 5 minute drive in any direction from my home and I rarely travel more than 20 minutes to get anywhere I need to go. However, over the past five years I have found that this convenience comes at a price. Pinellas County homes over 500,00 people, a similar population to the entire state of Vermont, in 1/16th the space. More people means way more traffic, buildings, man-made things, etc. And less nature. While getting out to the beach and soaking up the bird songs when I’m at home are wonderful, these man made conveniences take their toll on anyone’s nervous system, and mine is no exception, despite my yoga & meditation practices. Again, I am a fair skinned, redheaded child, meaning I am highly sensitive…to EVERYTHING. For this reason, I have found myself migrating back to the land from which I came the past two years for 5-6 month periods. I know that I want to reside predominantly in Gulfport, FL, but I also know my spirit needs rest and balance. For this reason, I may continue to be a new-age snowbird. Why not? I long for the slower pace of Vermont in the heavy summer months here, and yearn for sunshine and the sea when Vermont is encased in ice for several months.
I have tons of work to do here. I am so inspired by the Florida storms that roll in constantly this time of year. I can’t get enough of them and want to paint them endlessly. I hope to have a few examples in our final show September 12th! Here are some photo inspirations I captured recently with a trip out to Sunset Beach.
It was such an extraordinary experience to sit amongst the Emerging Artist grantees and talk about our art. There were so many incredible questions followed by thoughtful and insightful responses. I am so honored to be amongst this group of outstanding artists.
I am indescribably grateful for this grant and to Creative Pinellas for all they’re doing to nurture and grow the arts in our area of the world. Thank you to the fine folks of this organization who work hard to provide these opportunities and make art possible!
Thank you for reading!
I love you,