Monday, June 12, 2017

[Trains on Main] The Natural Thing to Do

If you're curious to see the behind-the-scenes process of how this art project was made (including the scribbles on paper that started it all), check out this post first.

If you're ready to see the final piece, carry on!

"The Natural Thing to Do"

Here is my finished train, titled "The Natural Thing to Do," accompanied by a walkthrough of the meaning it holds for me.

I chose the themes of humanity, connection, and unplugging because they've been on my mind most frequently this year, and seemed a worthy conversation for our Waunakee community.

• • •

[Trains on Main] Application and Creation Process

While in Madrid in April, I happened to see an article from the Waunakee Tribune which announced the deadline for their Trains on Main public art project had been extended to April 30. As I read more about the project and application requirements, I knew I had to apply. This was a perfect leap for me—doing something before you feel ready. I had just a pinch of impostor feelings, but knew fully that I was enough for this challenge and excitedly applied. (The bullet under "Artist Eligibility" which read "Previous public art experience is not necessary; all who are interested are encouraged to apply" very much played a role in giving myself the all-clear.)

Here's what artist would have to work with—a steel train made by our local Endres Manufacturing Company:

Artists would be given a $200 grant for the project and were completely free to choose materials, style, theme—no limits there.

Application Process

Applicants had to write a proposal for their train, explaining what they would do and why, and how they would weatherproof it. Which meant that in order to apply, I had to have some sort of idea as to how I'd transform this train into a piece of art. (Hello creativity challenge! This is why I've been building that muscle all year...)

Since I'd been thinking more and more about human connection, unplugging, and humanity (the fact that we're all imperfect) the past three months—especially with all of my travel sketching and the memorable moments with locals that resulted from making art in public—I decided to propose something exploring those themes.

I pulled out what has since become my "brainstorming"/catch-all notebook, and sketched two different sides to a train.

• • •

Friday, June 2, 2017

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017: May

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017 - Rebe With a Clause

Welcome, June! Time to look back on the action items I gave myself for the month of May, and check in on what progress has been made:

May Progress

1. Leaps
  • (+) Act on Get Shit Rolling! brainstorm — Meg and I did come up with an idea that excites me (creating a community), so I've been letting it simmer this month as I search for a name (oh naming things!). I've been jotting down ideas of creations/projects/events for this community as they pop into my mind.

    The plus I'm giving myself comes because I've arranged to speak at my local library in July about my experiences walking the Camino de Santiago. During my coaching call, I'd said a good next step would be to give some sort of workshop or speak somewhere locally. Now it's all set to happen!
  • (-) 5-in-5 Connection Challenge — Didn't ask anyone this month. I even went into Madison early the night that Kim Dinan spoke at Barnes and Noble, and walked through the mall for this purpose... but didn't approach anyone. As tends to happen, it has fallen in priority, so I won't be including it this month.

2. Stretch/Pilates
  • (+/-) Morning meditation + pilates — I'm not at a week straight yet, but I have started working on this one. The final week of May, I started doing some pilates and stretching, and have four checks this week so far.

    I will add that one of the reasons I began stretching this past week was because I'm on a 40-day meditation streak! That feels more automatic now that I've been home over a month, so I felt I could begin to integrate another daily habit.
• • •

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How to Make a Personal Compass

After a year focusing on my values and tracking them through monthly resolution checkpoints, last fall I sat down and made a personal compass to guide this "personal sabbatical" period of my life.

If you're interested in making one too, go ahead and create! There's no right or wrong way. If you could use a little structure to get started, here's a printable zine (PDF) I just made, which you can fold into a cute mini-book.

(Here's a clear video which demonstrates the simple folding/cutting needed to form the booklet). Enjoy!
• • •

Friday, May 5, 2017

Plane Tales

A few months ago, I luckily stumbled upon Eva Liparova's Plane Tales, a project in which she invited fellow passengers to write in a notebook and pass it around during her 9-hour flight. Brilliant!

I knew that when I headed back to the states after these spring travels, I'd have to try it. While in Montpellier I bought a cheap notebook, and prepared the intro and instructions while in Madrid. I basically copied Eva's intro and instructions word for word, but chose a different theme and starter question.

Plane Tales - Rebecca Thering

• • •

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017: March & April

2017 Resolutions Checkpoint - March April

If you recall, I didn't set any focus items for March, but here's a bit of what's gone down during the past two months:

March/April Progress

1. Leap
  • (+) Podcast — Agreed to be a guest on a podcast next month.
  • (+) Trains on Main — As you know from my newsletter, I submitted a proposal to take part in my town's public art project this summer, and it was accepted! That means I'll be spending the month of May transforming a metal train cut-out statue thingy into a piece of public art. Hello, leap!
  • (+) Plane Tales — On my long-haul flight from Europe to the United States, I passed around a Plane Tales book. The idea was not my own, it came from Eva Liparova. I'll be sharing it shortly on the blog.

2. Stretch/yoga/pilates
  • ( -) Off and on, haven't established regular routine yet.

3. Unplug/be outside

I had logged 97h 12m of computer time in February. Here's what March and April looked like on RescueTime: 

In the right column above, TextEdit is a basic Word program where I typed up some blog posts and emails during my wi-fi-less weeks in March. Time on Blogger and Medium (left column) were spent writing (hence the blue "positive" color, so I'm glad to see that).

(I switched to the browser Opera in early April, thus everything was logged as "Opera," which I only realized upon writing this post. I just found this handy article "How to Use RescueTime with Opera" and got everything set up, so next month's results should be more specific.)

  • (+) Read >30 min. daily — I read four books in my first week back home!

May Focus

Here are actions I can take in May towards my resolutions:

1. Leaps
  • Act on Get Shit Rolling! brainstorm — I'll be working with Meg Kissack next week to brainstorm ideas for how I can use my skills and life experience to leave a bigger mark on the world. I'll challenge myself to leap and act on an idea that arises during the session.
  • 5-in-5 Connection Challenge — Goal: Five challenges, ten rejections.

2. Stretch/Pilates
  • Morning meditation + pilates — A week straight of meditation + pilates first thing in the morning. By pairing the pilates with meditation, something I'm already doing right away in the morning, it should be easier to develop this habit.

3. Unplug/be outside
  • Plant vegetable garden in back yard
  • Fix brakes on bike!
  • Track biking / walking in bullet journal
  • Less than 90 hours online time this month
What about you? How was your April? What's one thing you'd like to do this coming month that'll move you closer to where you want to be?

• • •

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Settling Back in Saint-Jean-de-Védas

Although I didn't arrange the transportation until a week out, I knew while in Venice and Munich that I'd soon be headed back to Montpellier. And despite this prior knowledge, it still felt a bit surreal to arrive at Gare St. Roch and step out into the sunny, familiar streets—like I'd hacked time and jumped back to a prior chapter in life.

A fifteen-minute car ride later and we were back in Saint-Jean-de-Védas at the Rius residence, where I felt right at home.

French Eats

Damien's mom made paella on my second or third day—what luck!

That first weekend she also made beignets à la citrouille—her mom's recipe—with chocolat chaud:

• • •

Monday, April 10, 2017

Moment Catching in Montpellier

After an early morning train from Strasbourg, I arrived in Montpellier on Thursday, March 30, where Damien picked me up and took me to his parents' house in a nearby suburb. On Friday afternoon I took the tram into Montpellier to sketch at Parc du Peyrou for the weekend's Moment Catchers challenge.

It was a special sketching session for me because it's here where I painted my very first on-location watercolor last September, dabbing at colors and not knowing what I was doing. Below are my watercolors and the painting:

Watercolors: September 2016

• • •

[Photos] Maxing* in Munich

*Maxing = Hanging out with Max

A few days before my train to Munich, my friend Max—with whom I'd be staying—found out he'd have to work in Frankfurt during the week, and thus would not be at home when I arrived. He gave me directions to his apartment, made sure a roommate would be home to let me in, and welcomed me warmly with this awesome spread:

Umbrella, apple, towel, warm socks, tram map, cloth bag, key, handwritten welcome note with info + tips, and snail mail sent to me via Max. Amazing!
He also made and shared with me a Google map where he'd marked over 30 places, with his comments on each. Incredible!

One of the places he recommended was a nearby cemetery, where locals often go for a stroll or to sit in peace on the benches:

• • •

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I asked 44 pilgrims what they learned from walking the Camino de Santiago. Here's what they wrote:

For a month in the fall of 2014 I walked the camino francés of the Camino de Santiago—a pilgrimage across Spain.

Partway through the journey, I began keeping a running list in my mind of small lessons I was learning, which made their way onto a page in my journal and eventually became this reflection.

At some point along the journey, I decided at the end I'd ask other pilgrims what they had learned as well. After finishing, I bought a little notebook from a souvenir shop, grabbed a pen, and headed to the line of pilgrims waiting to get their certificate of completion in Santiago de Compostela. 

(This is the short version of how it went down, by the way. Here's where you can read a behind-the-scenes look at what was running through my head, and how the project almost didn't happen!)

• • •

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Puked, I Sketched, and Then One Man in Munich Changed My Day

Very early this morning, between the hours of midnight and one, I was kneeling over the toilet in my friend's apartment in Munich (he, out of town for work; his roommates, asleep), throwing up the day's consumptions. Another bug, something I ate, I have no idea.

Regardless of the cause, I spent most of today lounging in bed. I watched 500 Days of Summer on Netflix and a writing seminar which had been on my list for a while. I left the apartment briefly around noon, to buy ginger ale from the grocery store across the street, and picked up a pretzel from the bakery too—because goddamnit these are limited days in Munich!

Around 3 p.m. I decided to leave the apartment and walk around for a bit. My stomach didn't feel totally at ease, but I wasn't about to hurl either, and I couldn't bare to spend any more of this sunny day indoors. I walked to the center and through a food market, where I sat down on an open seat and pulled out my sketchbook.

• • •

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dining in Dozza

I had two Saturdays—my days off—while working on the farm near Dozza. I was also on my own for lunch, so both weeks I went into town to dine.

Dozza was very close to the farm—you really just walk up the grass hill, then five minutes down a straight road you enter the town through an archway. There are two parallel streets about two blocks long, with the castle at the other end, and that’s the old center.

The walls in Dozza are covered in over a hundred paintings by contemporary artists, the oldest date I saw was perhaps in the '70s.

Every two years there’s a festival in Dozza where artists are invited to paint in the town. So it's basically a free outdoor art museum!

• • •

Monday, March 20, 2017

Two-week HelpX Farm Stay in Dozza

Victoria picked me up from the small train station in Imola, and then we were off to the farm. Once I got settled in, my first task was to organize the tupperware drawer. "Do it however you want," she told me, "just as long as everything fits." Yes!

On the first evening, I asked Victoria what time I should get up in the morning.

“The girls are up eating breakfast at 6:45, 7” she said.

Seeing the look of horror on my face, she then added "but... you could get up… quarter past, or..., um, 7:30, yes, I think that would work if you’re up by 7:30.”
• • •

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Barfing in Bologna

On Wednesday, February 22 I arrived in Bologna, from Firenze.

Bologna Italy map


On my first evening I had an hour or two before dark, so I left to do some wander walking, map in hand. I took note of some markers along the way, so I could easily find my way back: "WIND" store under the arches. Got it.

Except when I took a few turns to come back a different way than I’d headed out, I quickly got turned around. Why? Because, as I quickly learned those first hours in Bologna, practically all the sidewalks are covered in arches! (Plus WIND is a chain store all over.) Oh, and also my map disappeared—that was the clincher. I really don’t know what happened to it.

I eventually found my way back before it was too dark, only stopping to ask someone the direction of the train station. I’d reasoned that worst case scenario, I go to the train station, because from there I could easily walk the 5 minutes to the hostel, as I’d done a few hours earlier. 

My direction intuition won again that evening, and I didn’t have to go all the way back to the train station! I got another map from a different hostel worker the next morning, and later in the trip painted this postcard for myself to remember Bologna and its covered walkways:

Bologna watercolor postcard
• • •

Moments in Firenze

I've only shown you photos of my time in Firenze, so here are some moments that took place during that week (February 15-22).

Followed on Arrival

After boarding the train to leave Roma, I double checked with the couple on my left—asking in my default Spanish thinking they were Italian—which direction the train would be leaving (to make sure I wasn’t sitting backwards the whole way, while I had a selection of seating).

They answered in Spanish, and it turns out they were from South America. We perhaps briefly chatted a bit more, but then it was a nice, quiet train ride to Firenze. When we were one stop from the last, called “Firenze [something or other],” I wasn’t sure if that was my stop or not, so I asked the same couple. They didn’t know, so I checked with an Italian woman in the next row who told me my stop was the next one, the last one.

When I returned to my seat, that couple asked me if I had lodging in Firenze. “Yes…” I said, and told them I’d booked a hostel. They asked the price, and I told them roughly how much per night for a shared dorm room. Then they told me they hadn’t booked anything yet, they were just showing up.

“Can you show us where it is?” asked the guy. I said yes before I realized what I’d agreed to. “It’s a 15-minute walk,” I told them, hoping they’d think it was too far. Then we didn’t talk for the remaining minutes of the ride. Hmm, maybe that’s not what I’d agreed to after all, I thought. The train stopped and I got off before them, then was like—dang, do I have to wait for them?
• • •

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017: February

Wow, and here we are, halfway through March already. I was in Bologna the last week of February with limited Wi-Fi, then spent the past two weeks on a small farm near Dozza—which also had hardly any internet.

This was no problem, as it was great to unplug—though what really kept me from blogging was the time! I’ll be playing catch up soon, including my typical day on the farm, but first an overdue check-in with my resolutions and action items for February.

Spoiler alert: I nearly didn’t complete anything!

• • •

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

[Photos] Freezing in Firenze

I've spent the past week in Firenze (Florence), wander walking and observing per usual.

So I wasn't really freezing, but in the shade and in the mornings/evenings, it was quite chilly. Plus, two days there was this Argentine guy in my room who would always open the window because he "was hot"... but it was freezing in our room!

Anyway, I survived and I'll be looking to buy a hat here in Bologna. Meanwhile, here's some of what I saw in Firenze:

I really liked the designs on the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and you'll see below that I used this section as inspiration for a painting one day.

• • •

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The 100 Day Project Ideas

What could you do with 100 days of making?

That's the question asked by Elle Luna and The Great Discontent over at #The100DayProject. (If this is the first you're hearing of The 100 Day Project, pop on over to The Great Discontent and check out this page first.)

The main takeaway is that you give yourself a short action to do every day for 100 days. Although there are now some very beautiful creations on Instagram, it's not at all about the result. This is the core of the project, which I cannot stress enough: It's all about the process—the making—not what's made.

Last fall when I wanted to do my own 100 Day Project, I was looking for a list of all the projects that have been done—but searching the hashtag on Instagram had me scrolling and scrolling, yet still only seeing the most recent projects. On The Great Discontent you have to read through old newsletters to see some featured past projects... so in the end I decided to make what I'd been looking for: a huge list of #The100DayProject projects.

I hope it helps to spark ideas for your very own project!

And if you know about a #The100DayProject project that's not on this list, I would be so grateful if you'd let me know via comment or tweet (@RebeWithaClause) so I can add it. Thank you!

The 100 Day Project ideas #The100DayProject

#The100DayProject Projects (A-Z)

100 Days of Abandoned Bikes #The100DayProject

#100DaysofAnimatedPaperPack #The100DayProject

#100DaysofAwareness #The100DayProject

• • •

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hostel Night of Hell

I came to Rome with a cold, and wasn't very impressed with the hostel I'd booked. You see, I went to the main building to check in, where someone's at reception 24 hours a day, and turns out my room was in another building just around the corner. But that's common enough, no problem.

So, key and keycard in hand, I get to this other apartment building, go up to the second floor, and inside the unit discover the "common room" (kitchen?) has a fridge, an electric kettle, and a sink that I discovered hiding in a closet. (No soap.) Also, the bathroom door off of this room did not open, and no one was inside. (aka if the bathroom in your dorm room was in use and you really had to go, there was nowhere else to go.)

So I did some grocery shopping under the worst-case-scenario option that there was nowhere to cook. Later on I realized we can call the reception desk from this phone in the old reception area in my building, so I do so and ask "Where is the kitchen?" to the woman who picked up on the other end.

She says it's down on the first floor. (Note: This isn't connected or anything, you leave the apartment, go in the building's stairwell, and enter another apartment.) I had checked the first floor earlier, to see if there were another part of this hostel down there, but all I could see were signs for "Melissa's Guesthouse" on one door (and "Private" signs on the other two).

So I responded, "You mean the door that says 'Melissa's Guesthouse'?"

"Yes, that's it."

• • •

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Following the Flow and Letting Go on the Path of Gods

When Luca, one of the hostel staff answered my "Can you go hiking on the mountains" with "You mean, the volcano Mount Vesuvius?" (whoops), I followed up with: 

"Well, are there any cool parks in Napoli?"

Laughter followed.

Turns out, Napoli is Italy's most densely populated major city (Wikipedia). There's a reason why I wasn't spotting any green from the 360-degrees lookout point that afternoon.

Then he asked if I liked hiking and that sort of thing. Yes, yes I do.

He proceeded to tell me about the nearby Amalfi Coast, which is where one could go hiking on the famous "Path of the Gods" (Italian: Sentiero degli Dei).

It was the first I'd ever heard of the walk, but I was sold! After several grey days with scattered drizzles, Tuesday was going to be gorgeously sunny. And although it would be my last full day in Napoli, I decided to do the hike then.

Here are the directions I was going from: Go to the train station. Take the train to Sorrento (same train I'd taken to Pompeii, but all the way to the final stop). Then take a bus to Amalfi. From there, take another bus to Bomerano, where the 4-hour hike begins. Sabrina (another staff member) then printed this PDF for me, which was super helpful once I was in Bomerano.

Normally I like to know a bit more. Questions that popped up in my head were not limited to: Where is the bus in relation to the Sorrento train station? How often do the buses leave? How much do they cost? How long is the ride? Where does the bus drop you off in Bomerano? How do I get from the end of the hike back to Sorrento? What time does the last train leave? What time is the last bus? Etc. Etc.

But the day ended up being an exercise in going with the flow and accepting what is, as I'm continually reminded by my Daily Calm meditations. I trusted that I would figure everything out.
• • •

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


This past Sunday I visited Pompeii, an ancient Roman town that was buried under volcanic ash in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

It happened to be the first Sunday of the month, which meant museums in Napoli—including Pompeii—were free. (Saved me from a 13-euro entrance ticket!)

I've heard that you haven't fully experienced Pompeii unless you visit both Pompeii (the remains of the city) and the National Archeology Museum of Naples (which houses the artifacts that have been found in Pompeii). Well, if that's the case, then I have an incomplete experience of Pompeii—as I never made it to the archeology museum.

But what I did experience were five hours of walking around this ancient city (and still not getting to all the sections—there's a lot of ground to cover!).

It was amazing how organized the Romans were. As you can see below (and in many photos to follow), sidewalks were raised so that people had an easier time avoiding water when it rained and animal droppings from the road.
• • •