Eulogy for an Old Friend

April 5th, 2022, 11:00am: We hired a tree service to cut down our old Blue Spruce in a 70 to 80 mph wind storm. Yes. They went up on a rope in that wind to take most of the branches off so the second half of the tree wouldn’t hit the neighbor’s house squarely in the middle.

April 5th, 2022, evening: I am soaking in our bathtub-not-a-shower, just before sunset. Looking out the window above the tub. Sunlight still catches the remaining limbs of this very old and very huge spruce tree that makes up the entirety of my view. They have only cut off the top half of the tree, so the lower branches remain.

April 6th, 2022, all day: the tree crew cut the rest of our tree in huge chunks. The pieces hit the ground audibly and each time, shook the whole house. A dismemberment. I cried a lot that day. And the next, every time I looked at the empty space where our beautiful companion tree had once filled the sky.

Summer of 2018, evening: I took the photo above, from this exact spot – the bathtub, looking through the window. If you look closely you can see the grid pattern of the window screen.

August 1989 to Present Day: This has been the view on the east side of our home since I bought it in ’89. I was a single mother, lucky enough to find — after almost two years of looking for something I could afford — a house that came with the option of creative financing.

And this tree.

The week we moved in, I met our next door neighbor, Sylvia, who had built this house with her husband in the early 1900’s. Sylvia, who had planted this tree. In her elderly-crabby-Patty way, she warned me about the weeds in my (brand new to me) yard (“You better do something about those dandelions”) and declared something about the old spruce with its definite lean toward her house (“If that tree hits my house, I’ll sue ya!)

Our very old tree has been a home for countless magpies, ravens, robins, sparrows, finches, chickadees, pine siskins, even hummingbird families and a pair of kestrels for all these years. 

I say it is “our” spruce tree, though we did not plant it. We made sure to water it every year though nothing would grow under its canopy. It meant more to me than providing a bird home. I have many memories of times with/under/ next-to this ancient being. Times I needed solace. The time we thought our dear old Sam was dying and my sons slept next to him on the ground under this tree that night. Times I looked to this ancient one for wisdom and knowledge about my life. Times I prayed, touching her massive trunk. My best friend Jen married her husband in a simple dawn ceremony led by our teacher, a Huichol shaman.

Old tree, you were a companion on hot summer afternoons when my kids and I lay in the hammock between your trunk and the house. You shaded our home so well that we never needed air conditioning. You made a ceiling in our garden, creating a context for us whenever we were out in the yard.

So, the tree service: a bunch of young guys. They’re all agile and strong. One of them climbed in that wind storm, with ropes and spikes to the wildly swaying top and tied it off to a 3/4 ton truck parked in our alley. Assurance the second half would not fall right onto our neighbors house tonight. Winds strong enough to shake our whole house and keep us up all night.

One half of this beautiful being was severed by the wind from its other half. Conjoined twins (co-dominant leaders in the tree-people lingo.) The largest leader – first born, the dominant sister – came down in the wind yesterday morning less than an hour after I told Tim about my dream of this happening. We had looked at it together as we left for work that morning — I reminded him it would fall to the east if it ever falls (he had dreamt of the tree falling on our house.) Forty five minutes later I get an email: “Your tree just fell into our yard. All are safe.” 

Heart wide open… throat tight. Relieved no one was hurt. Relieved their house was only clipped , slightly damaged. Yet, the shock of news that someone I love has died. I can hardly feel.

It will be gone next time I sink in to a hot healing tub of water. There will be only sky next time I look out this window.

We used to see only blueish green branches and a majestic tree filling this view. Today the is a trunk. Tomorrow there will be nothing but the neighbor’s house.

Door Decorations at Berwick-on-the-lake

Wreaths don’t own front doors. And house doors don’t own front door decorations, either. Why not put a bird house or a bird-i-a-box on your front door? My mother recently downsized to a two bedroom apartment in a retirement community, so she has an apartment door in a hallway rather than the outside door she used to have. She has always loved having a wreath or some other wonderful, hand made seasonal decoration on her front door to welcome family, friends and strangers.

So … my sisters and I got together and made Mom four seasonal craftily-decorated yummies for her new apartment door. She loves birds, gardening, traveling and artsy things. So we all brought bits and pieces from our closets, junk drawers and craft rooms and collaborated on these wonderful pieces.

  • For spring, she has a little box with a glass-front box containing a bird nest and music … oh. plus a bunny-in-a-box on top. Of course!
  • Summer’s door decoration is a wreath with bird house covered with bird and flower stamps from around the world, 8 carrots for her 8 children, and roof tiles of scrabble bits. Rose buds, reindeer moss and the word, “Home” make it really welcoming.
  • Fall is another wreath, this one with vintage alphabet blocks, tiny child’s shoes, lichens, mosses and feathers … and mom’s name, Pat, so everyone in her new community knows just who lives behind that door!
  • Lastly, her winter door decoration is a tilty-tiny-village of whimsical bird houses in a white, gold and silver theme. We used old hankies and lace to make flowers and an angel that sits on the roof. Dangly crystals and beads and the word, “Peace” complete this sweet “community” welcome.

Annual “Girls Go” Gathering

Every year I get together with my sisters and mom for a long weekend. We hang out, eat chocolate, make art, talk, drink wine talk some more, drink coffee and tea, play games, walk, hike, and cook. Oh, and we eat some other things too. Not just chocolate. 😉

Our Girls Go gatherings have been a wonderful way for me — and I think for all of us — to become closer as adults. I live so far away from the rest of the family and I really appreciate our relaxed sister-bonding yearly retreats. There are 5 of us sisters and two sisters in law who are as much part of the family as any of us. And of course, our mom, Pat.

This year we spent almost 4 whole days on Vancouver Island, near where two sisters and mom live year round. We found a great vacation rental house right on the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria and Sidney. Right on the ocean. Oh joy!

Mom is moving into a retirement community next month, and she has always loved having a handmade decoration on her front door. As our art project this time, we made some decorations for her new apartment door. We collaborated on four, one for each season. She likes birds so we went with a bird-ish theme. Mom loves them!

We also visited one of my favorite 1+1=1 Gallery artists, Sarah Magar, in her home and studio. Sarah lives with her husband in a sweet little house smack on the open west coast of Vancouver Island — in the teensy town of Sooke. Her ceramic studio is literally about 4 steps from the kitchen door and looks out on the broody moody glorious ocean. Check out a few peeks of Sarah’s home and studio below. When I have time I am planning to write an article about Sarah on our gallery website. She’ll be our next featured artist.

On the way back to Helena, we stayed overnight at a friend’s house, then spent a few hours visiting the Pratt printmaking studio in Seattle. That is like letting me into a candy store! The creativity, diversity, enthusiasm and delight from all of the printmakers working in the studio was thick! I’ll write another post just about the Pratt studio and those amazing artists. Watch for it.

Studio Scraps and Feeling Scrappy

Seems like I write a new post whenever I’m pressed for time in my studio. Maybe it’s avoidance. Maybe it’s just that when I’m struggling or when I’m jumping up and down with joy because I got over my hump is exactly when I feel like sharing that struggle and that joy with you. I’m feelin’ scrappy. That’s it.

Soooo … I’m in the flow and I apologize for my weird sentences and non-grammar.

Today I reflect on the scraps and leftovers, the layers and stashed pieces of beauty that normally stay hidden in boxes until I’m in a creative flow and just need to see what I’ve got. When it’s all out on the studio tables — any flat surface that isn’t covered in ink — I can swim in the colors and textures and gorgeousness and it gets me going. I am simultaneously (well, almost) working on 9 or 10 different images. Some will make it into the upcoming printmakers’ show and others will make it to the “scrap pile” (I rarely throw away a print even if it’s un-good.)  I’m experimenting with a short series of four bird nests and two other prints about birds. Plus two of my animal companions and one about home. Just home. Actually, they are all about home, come to think of it. A deep sense of home. Home empty. Home full. Home in a storm. Home when you have someone. Home when you love someone.

I want to share some of my studio scraps. And maybe a couple of prints that are bubbling up from the deep. Not quite done. Not quite ready for framing. Still experiments. Still works-in-progress. I’ll post again when I decide what’s going in the exhibit, PRESS HERE – – and give y’all some sneak peeks.

Thank you for reading. Mwuah!


Here’s some info about the printmaking exhibit at 1+1=1 Gallery. 

Thoughts on gratitude

img_4959I am glad to be alive today.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with 15 family and friends — and since our house is tiny, we hosted it at our art gallery. What fun! It was an experience I hope everyone there remembers. Thanks everybody.

I am grateful to have had all the experiences of my life, every single moment. Even moments of despair, grief or anger. Gratitude is big enough to hold every thing. Connection. Loneliness. Delight. Full belly. Music.

It begins by being deeply present in each moment. Too often I forget to be present. Then somehow we orchestrate a day like today and I’ve made up for those times I forgot to notice the preciousness. The fleeting sweetness. My treasured family and friends. Remembering is gratitude.


Look at all of this before us: your eyes and smiles around the table! The bounty of our beautiful earth and of our labors! The beauty and artistry on the walls, on the table, in our bodies. Take it in- the laughter and dancing and goofing and helping and eating and washing and sharing. The sharing!

Thanksgiving 2016 – post feast dancing from Maureen Shaughnessy on Vimeo.

I appreciate you all. Each one. I have no regrets for the difficulties and hard times, though I am sorry if I ever hurt you. We are who we are because of all that. We are who we are because of who loves us and who we love and who has been vulnerable with us and who we have shown our hearts to. And. What we do about it.

Gratitude demands that we do something to bring the emotion to life! That we create a ripple in the surface — simply because we are aware, thankful, changed. That we take some kind of action. So I ask myself tonight, “What do I do, to honor what I love, to advance what I value, to create more of what I long for?”

Bow deeply to the sacred in each person you meet.

Inspired by the Prayer of St. Francis

St Francis of Assisi by Nancy Goughnour

St Francis of Assisi by Nancy GoughnourAs a child, my favorite saint was St. Francis. I think one of the reasons I was so drawn to his story was his profound connection to all of creation: sun, moon, plants, rivers mountains, animals … somehow that way of living and being has always resonated with me. I continue to gain inspiration from Francis of Assisi.  This is my own version of the Prayer of St. Francis:

Creator, make me a channel of peace,
Where there is hatred, let me plant love;
When I have hurt, let me seek pardon and
Where there is hurt inside me, let me find forgiveness;
Where there is doubt, let me believe;
When I feel despair, let me seek the light;
When the night seems too long, let me remember the morning
Where there is sadness, cultivate joy.

O Loving Creator,
help me open my heart to others before I ask for help;
seek to know the world around me before I expect to be understood;
love with my whole body, heart and spirit
and in doing so, know that I will be loved
help me remember that it is in giving that we receive
it is in forgiving that we are forgiven
and it is in letting go that I am connected forever
to all of Life.


We start from a dark place before we are born,
reach for the ambiguous lightness
as if we could see through the window
into lighter places,
through a cloudy film.
It’s always there in winter, for some.

A tiny glass basket pulls me back to
childhood: its’ candy colors, stacks of rings
like playground sing-songs
memories carried as a burden or
a teaching
carried in starts and stops
like drops of water
or shards of crystal glass.

I drink it up.

— Maureen Shaughnessy

Imagined Journey

Imagined Journey by Maureen Shaughnessy
Imagined Journey ©2008 by Maureen Shaughnessy

Every journey begins with imagination. Even the journey of a life … that path we travel from conception to death, even this wandering begins with the imagination of two souls. Sometimes the imagining is born of love. Sometimes desire. Sometimes rage or passion or indifference. Always, we begin with the wanting. The wanting to be here. To go on.

Along my way there have been sidetracks, switchbacks, detours. I have strayed from the path, I have been broken, I have fallen down and thought I could not get up, could not continue. I have run out of gas, lost my mojo, stumbled in the dark.I have , at times, wandered without a map. Too proud to ask for directions. Or embarrassed. Following my nose. Or heart. Or something else: a kind of song. Ancient. Wise. Eloquent. Solemn.

And yet, my way has not been a lonely road. I have had companions. They have been my guides, the threads that held me, my constant guiding stars. Among these companions, are my soulmate and husband, Tim, my sons Mickey and Gabe, our sweet old Sam (and now that Sam is gone, our dear old Charlie.)

In my imagination, I walk the road ahead. Steadied by friendship, by love, by faith in something larger than myself. I am grateful for the blessings of my life.

I originally published this post on my old blog that I don’t update anymore, in 2008. Just decided to ressurect the photo and post because it feels true to me still. Hope you enjoy it.  ~Maureen