So much information is flowing from so many directions right now that I wanted to share some good ideas from others. Below is a guest post from the Creative Wellness blog, written by my sister Nancy Monson, a multimedia artist and medical journalist on March 14, 2020. The world has completely changed in 18 days, and certain voices knew where it was going. These experts—Dr. Fauci, Dr. Brix, and Dr. Redfield–are still our best sources of information, and their messages should be heeded. PLUS: some good ideas to help you keep your head together!

Creative Wellness and COVID-19 Social Distancing

By Nancy Monson


So we’re all home-bound and will be for a while–or at least I hope we’re following that advice. It’s really our only hope to fight the COVID-19 virus. Stay away from others until the virus starts to dissipate and so a mass of people don’t get sick and overwhelm the healthcare system as has happened in Italy and China.

I truly believe in what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is telling us about “going into isolation and perhaps even lockdown”: I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.” (An aside: As a health writer, I interviewed Dr. Fauci about the AIDS crisis and I’ve followed his career. He is a caring, rationale, hard-working medical expert, and very, very smart about public health. He is doing his best to protect us and get ahead of this crisis. I think he and Dr. Deborah Brix are the voices of reason here. Even Dr. Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is less credible because his agency and the Food and Drug Administration apparently didn’t get testing off the ground quickly enough, which is why we are playing catch-up).

Keeping yourself and your family occupied during this time can be challenging. Books and TV (and boy am I grateful for all of the amazing TV series and movies we have available to us today!). But it’s also the perfect time to turn to creative activities, which can distract you from worries about the virus, the stock market, and your job.

I’ve been lucky enough to practice what I preach as the author of Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes. Crafts and creative hobbies have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My mom used to draw and color with me, and she encouraged my sister and I both to do creative writing (Linda contributed a chapter to the book). She sent us for art lessons, which we loved, and piano lessons (which I sucked at!). Today, I quilt, I sew, I paint on silk and canvas. I just like to make things. The practice engrosses me, makes me feel less lonely, and it makes me feel happy to see what I’ve made. And during these starting days of isolation, it’s been a wonderful comfort, so I’d like to suggest some “Craft to Heal” ideas for the crafty and non-crafty out there.


If you’ve always been thinking about it, now’s the time, and you’ve got lots of fodder for entries with the surreal news each day. I have kept a journal since I was a teenager. I would never want anyone else to read what I’ve written, but when I look back on those pages, it helps me remember not only the details of my life, but also how I felt about people and circumstances. And it helps me see things in a new light and from a more seasoned perspective.

According to Gina Carroll, author of “A Story That Matters: A Gratifying Approach to Writing About Your Life,” journaling at midlife is an ideal way to work through important life events and come to terms with your past.

Getting Started. You can start journaling simply by writing down significant things that happen to you and how you feel about them (um, the coronavirus pandemic perhaps?). Or you can do a life review, looking back at the ups and downs of your lifetime. Actress Jane Fonda, author of “Prime Time: Making the Most of All of Your Life,” found doing a life review liberating. She told USA Today, “The rap on me was there was no ‘there’ there. I was pretty much what my husbands wanted me to be. But when I did my life review, preparing for my 60s and writing my memoir, there were themes that ran through my life….I saw who I was, as opposed to who my husbands wanted me to be. I could own who I was.”

Another option, particularly if you feel overwhelmed or blocked, is to do “morning pages,” three pages of long-hand, stream-of-consciousness writings every morning to access your creativity. These pages, the brain child of creativity expert Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” are for your eyes only and they may be a jumbled mess, a laundry list of things you need to do or the same phrase written over and over again. They may even contain doodles and drawings.

A third option is to write a list of what you’re grateful for each day—a particularly good cup of coffee this morning, a cellphone chat with an old friend, watching a funny movie on TV, reading a good book. This practice can keep you focused on the positives in your life rather than having you focus on the negatives that can pull you down into the abyss.

Journaling Benefits. “It’s wonderful to have a creative outlet like journaling to provide structure, habit and ritual to your life,” notes Carroll, particularly if you’re retired. Creative outlets also provide an emotional release, she says, adding “There is something magical and enduring about the written word.”

Although you don’t have to share your journaling, Carroll actually advocates writing with the intention of passing your life stories on to others through bound or self-published books, a blog or other outlets. “Writing to share your stories gives journaling a sense of urgency and purpose,” she says. “Your story is important to your family….Your story is the beginning of their story.”


You likely have supplies readily available and you can get instructions or watch videos online about how to make things out of paper, like the origami technique.  Quilling is also fun and easy, and you can make your own strips of paper.


You can do this manually—and if you don’t have supplies, order them online from Joann’s or Amazon. You can also do a digital book with a service like Shutterfly.

Here are tips on how to create a pleasing collage or scrapbook page:

  • Decide on your substrate—heavy paper, cardboard, canvas, fabric, clay board, encaustic board, whatever. (If you’re going to use heavy paper or cardboard, you want to prepare it first so it doesn’t curl. You do this by wetting it on both sides with water and using paper tape or objects to keep it flat till it dries.)
  • Think of a theme, emotion, or issue you want to explore.
  • Look through magazines for images and words that speak to you; cut them out. Also use your own photographs or personal items in your collage.
  • Decide on a focal point—a large image that will be the main focus of your collage. You can set this image anywhere you like—center, right or left. Your eye will first be drawn to this image and then move around the collage from there.
  • Decide on background colors and papers. You want different textures and areas of light and dark to create the most interesting piece.
  • Piece the colors and papers together—ripping them, cutting them artfully, setting them on their side, overlapping them. Lay them out without glue first. Keep looking at the piece and experimenting, moving things around, taking things off and putting other things on.
  • Once you like the look of the background, paste them down. You can paint over the papers if you like with a glossy acrylic paint.
  • Then paste the image to your board—put glue on the board and not the image and use a brayer to smooth out bubbles and reduce crinkling.
  • You can alter the photo with pens, add written or typed words or phrases.
  • Keep adding to the image with words and embellishments until you feel the piece is done!
  • Spray or paint with varnish to set and protect. Frame if you like and hang on your wall!


I teach a relaxing creative technique called “Zentangle“drawing, whose mantra is “Anything is possible, one stroke at a time.™” The Zentangle® Method looks like a complicated form of drawing or doodling, but is actually an easy-to-learn technique that is fun and relieves stress. At its core, Zentangle art is all about being in the moment and being mindful, paying attention to what you are doing and getting into a rhythm and a flow, which pushes away worries and distractions. The drawings unfold in an unplanned, yet structured way, and everyone’s drawing comes out differently—even though each person creates the same patterns (called tangles in the Zentangle lexicon). There is no right or wrong with Zentangle; there are only opportunities.

“The Zentangle Method works with what we call the ‘elegance of limits’ to inspire a creativity that isn’t normally experienced with the just-do-anything approach to doodling,” says Rick Roberts, who along with artist and calligrapher Maria Thomas founded Zentangle, Inc. The duo from Whitinsville, Mass., created the method back in 2003, merging the best of meditation and art, and have since trained approximately 4,000 teachers in 40 countries. These Certified Zentangle Teachers (or CZTs—including me!) have, in turn, taught others the technique.

Making Zentangle art is not only enjoyable, but it can also bring you to a healing, relaxed state of mind, says Roberts. That’s a fact borne out by a recent study from Drexel University, which found that 45 minutes of drawing a day reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making people feel calmer. Likewise, a survey of 1,362 people worldwide conducted by researchers at the University of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn., showed that people who made Zentangle drawings felt it relaxed them and helped them to focus, eased pain and anxiety and enhanced their creativity.

“We believe life is an art form and that each of us is an artist,” Roberts concludes. “You are more creative, more imaginative and more expressive than you could ever know. And Zentangle drawing helps you to access that creativity and make beautiful drawings as a bonus.”

For more info:

Supplies, beginning instruction and list of CZTs: http://www.zentangle.com

Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/zentangle

Patterns: http://www.tanglepatterns.com


Or, go to Nancy’s website: Creative Wellness with Nancy Monson  


Everyone in the world is experiencing much higher amounts of at home time. This, combined with social distancing, is meant to reduce individual risks of contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. But it only works if you really practice self-protective behaviors!


COVID-19 is considered a type of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, the first of which caused an epidemic back in 2003.  Like SARS-1 COVID-19 (also called SARS-Cov-2) virus does affect the respiratory system, and shares some patterns of community-based transmission, erupting in clusters that rapidly spread. Because of this, most of the infection control protocols being used by governments and communities are based on the containment of the original SARS-1 virus.

It is not well known if COVID-19 is transmitted frequently via surfaces, but it is widely suspected. On March 19, a joint study released by scientists from the NIH, CDC, UCLA, and Princeton reported that “(SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to 3 hours, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

COVID-19 can live for 3 hours in the air and for 4 hours to 3 days on surfaces after an infected person has left the space.


What Can You Do? Create a Virus-Free Space for Yourself!

Since we are all home now, you want to make sure to start with a contaminant-free space today. After that, the germs in your house will be yours and you can probably get by with regular maintenance.


Look at your home as a container with surfaces and spaces (air). When the container is closed, only the germs that are already inside will spread—and they will spread fast.  Start now by getting rid of what is in the house by:

Minimizing the surfaces the virus can cling to by clearing all surfaces of clutter

  • Bag all trash and removing it regularly
  • Get rid of paper piles, cardboard, etc.
  • Sort mail outside and toss what you don’t need
  • Wash all plastic containers, plates, cups, utensils, etc, and put them in closed drawers and cabinets

Washing all plates and utensils before and after you use them

Opening the windows on all sides (as well as bedrooms and bathrooms)  to air out the house at least daily

STEP 2:  DISINFECT all surfaces once – if people touch it, clean it

  • Remove germs once by cleaning with disinfectant or even soap and water, and try to limit the number of surfaces that get touched.
  • Repeat cleaning any time you suspect recontamination.
  • Use disinfectant cleaners to spray down all surfaces, let sit a few minutes to kill germs, and wipe with a clean paper towel – DO NOT REUSE THE SAME TOWEL FOR THE NEXT SURFACE


KITCHEN:  counters, tables, refrigerators, stoves, toasters, sinks, microwaves, cabinets and cabinet handles

BATHROOMS: sinks, toilets, faucets, cabinet nobs and handles, mirrors

BEDROOMS: clean linens more frequently—at least weekly, and more often if someone is sick

FLOORS: vacuum rugs and carpets (using a rug spray if you have one), hardwood and tile floors.

Use a disinfectant wash on kitchen and bath floors, air dry rooms by opening windows.

Read more about types of cleaners to disinfect different surfaces here.

STEP 3: Reduce potential areas of new contamination

The virus lives on fabrics—and then gets carried to new parts of the house on your clothing. Here are some ways to reduce contamination:

  • Limit clothing each person wears so you do not have large piles of soiled clothing, and wash frequently.
  • Bag dirty laundry in a plastic garbage bag and keep away from main rooms and clean clothes (in basement, laundry room, or an uncluttered closet) until ready to wash.
  • Wash all towels after 1 use and do not rehang to dry
  • Wash hand towels frequently
  • Use hot water to wash when possible
  • Keep doors to bedrooms, bathrooms, basements, and unused rooms, etc, closed to reduce cross contamination
  • Open all doors and windows (to rooms that are used) daily to air them out

STEP 4: Upgrade Personal Hygiene

Shower frequently, especially after exercise or coming in contact with other people

  • Wash hands frequently–keep liquid handwash and bar soap readily available
  • Separate toothbrushes and other personal hygiene items for all people in the home
  • Wash and wipe sinks, faucets, toilets and other surfaces after every use
  • Keep a bathroom disinfectant deodorizer (like Lysol) in the bathroom and spray the air regularly throughout the day

STEP 5: Protect the Perimeters of Your Home from New Contaminants

Now that your home is relatively contaminant free, it is a safe zone—until someone leaves and comes back in, bringing new germs with them. If you never leave and never let anyone in, you are least likely to get the coronavirus. But staying inside forever is not practical, and most people are still venturing out for groceries, doctor’s visits, work, and just to take walks.

Even with safe social distancing, it is IMPOSSIBLE to avoid coming in contact with the COVID-19 virus altogether. So, the next best thing is to keep new contaminants from entering your clean home—by leaving them at the door (If you live in an apartment with interior hallways, stairs, elevators, etc, these steps are especially important):

  • Remove shoes at the door, spray the bottoms, and leave them there
  • Keep a box, a tray or a basket by the door for shoes and spray frequently with disinfectant
  • Mop the floors by the entryways daily and air out
  • Remove outside clothing (coats, sweaters, hoodies, etc) at the door and hang them if possible until the next time they are needed
  • Wash outside clothing every few days
  • If you think you were exposed while out, take off pants and tops and outdoor clothing and immediately put them in a plastic bag to be washed.
  • Wash hands every time you come in from outside
  • Disinfect door handles from both sides once inside your home

Following these steps will not guarantee that you don’t get the virus, but they will reduce your risk–and it may shorten the course if the virus does make it into your home.

STILL MORE SUGGESTIONS: Here is a really helpful Self-Quarantine Checklist!

Coronavirus Disclaimer: The information posted here comes from the main scientific sources for healthcare information in the US—the CDC, the FDA, academic institutions and other published sites. These are noted where possible. Very little about the COVID-19 virus is established fact. While I make every effort to present the most unbiased sources, the data and statistics to this pandemic are changing daily, no general guidelines are yet available for treatment and the outcomes are unknown. Please check with your personal healthcare sources before following any medical advice.


The Names

It’s called COVID-19 by most of the US press, short for “Coronavirus 2019,” the year it was first identified.

A coronavirus is a common type of virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat.

The CDC reports 7 types of common coronaviruses that have been reported in humans, including 2 alpha and 2 beta corona viruses, MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS), and SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS).

The most recent coronavirus #7, is now often called, SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19).

While these viruses have many similarities, COVID-19 has behaved differently from the others in terms of transmission, which is why it is so difficult to predict how far and how fast it will spread.

The word, “corona” refers to the appearance of an aura or crown around a circle (like the sun). This also describes the shape of the coronavirus, so no, the name has nothing to do with Corona beer.

Transmission Patterns

The COVID-19 virus is definitely transmitted by coming in contact with an infected person. It is not clear whether a person who is infected, but not showing symptoms, can transmit the virus. That’s why everyone is being asked to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others to prevent the spread.

The round spikey coronavirus molecules look like they have suction cups that can readily attach to surfaces when released through a cough or sneeze in the air, which helps to explain the rapid transmission. This state site has a good image.

It is not yet well known how long the COVID-19 virus can survive on many types of surfaces—this explains why it is so important to reduce the surfaces you have to touch, and to disinfect the ones you do.

Understanding “the Curve”

RAPID is the only way to describe the main cause of the pandemic. It simply travels faster than we can catch it—one person gets sick, and they infect multiple others who infect others before the first person has even been diagnosed.

THERE IS NO TREATMENT for coronaviruses. That means there is no single treatment that works to stop the virus in the system. The treatments being applied now are tied to the symptoms. The most serious cases involve pneumonia and other respiratory problems, and so patients are put on ventilators. Because it is caused by a virus, antibiotics that work against bacteria are not effective.

At home, you can use the medications you would normally use for colds (which are coronaviruses), such as decongestants and antihistamines. Take lots of fluids, get lots of rest, and if severe breathing or gastrointestinal problems develop, CALL your healthcare provider to arrange for COVID-19 testing in your area.

So, the curve everybody talks about refers to how fast the number of cases is increasing or decreasing. Right now, the US is at the beginning of the curve upwards. We will need to reach a crest where the cases stabilize and then decrease steadily before we can even think about going back to normal.

The current business closures will have to maintained for at least 2 weeks AFTER new cases have ceased to be identified. It will be a while before you should consider going back to previous normal routines.

What the 2-week restrictions are about.

2 weeks in self-quarantine is not a random number. The incubation period for the COVID-19 virus is still not clearly defined. Base on previous experience with SARS-1, the incubation period is believed to be 5 to 14 days, but this has not been proven.  Government agencies are using the outside range of 14 days as the safety margin for when someone who may have been exposed can again leave isolation (while still maintaining social distancing). As of now the 2-week margin has been holding, but if cases continue to rise, that may be extended to longer.

Here is a daily CDC map and chart that let you track the number of cases reported by state and county. Watch in your area to know whether the local risks are increasing, and if they are, stay at home for several days to avoid the worst of the spread.



*Coronavirus Disclaimer: The information posted here comes from the main scientific sources for healthcare information in the US—the CDC, the FDA, academic institutions and other published sites. These are noted where possible. Very little about the COVID-19 virus is established fact. While I make every effort to present the most unbiased sources, the data and statistics to this pandemic are changing daily, and no general guidelines are yet available for treatment and the outcomes are unknown. Please check with your personal healthcare sources before following any medical advice.


What We Know Now, What We Don’t—And What that Means to You

Most of us around the world are sheltering in place, waiting for the world to tell us how close this pandemic is coming to our doors. Some still don’t believe, but every day it does get closer.

We have so much time to contemplate and so little real information to go on. As a medical journalist, I have been following the reports in the medical literature for three months now—and the Coronavirus pandemic is playing out just as scientists, epidemiologists, and healthcare workers around the world have been predicting. They have been dead on with this, but much of this information has been getting buried, lost, and confused as the virus moves swiftly around the world.

Like most people I know, I can’t do the work I would normally do to pay the bills. Most of the articles I was writing—on everyday medical topics like rosacea, migraine, and hip replacement—are no longer being assigned, and are not likely to be in the short run. The larger projects I worked on, such as slide presentations and educational programs for doctors and nurses, have been delayed, and reporting on the hundreds of spring medical conferences has been completely halted as the conferences are cancelled.

Since I can’t write for them, and I’m already trained to follow medical topics, I can write for my friends, colleagues and kindred spirits, people who love and follow the arts. And for now, I will write about How We Learn to Live Through the Coronavirus Pandemic.

I can spend my time at home helping to clarify the information that is available from expert medical sources I read daily.  These include the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the Lancet, among others, and national and regional news sources and state sites, among others. I’m also checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) for their updates.

You can watch TV or follow your regular sources for information. And if you have questions, I will try to distill down what all this information actually means. I will try to research what is coming out of these sources for the best answers, as they become known. Because I live in Connecticut, a northeast region of the US about 90 minutes from New York City and Boston (both hotspots), I will focus on the US trends.

After this starts to pass and we can see where we will be going, we can reopen discussions of art and life and hope for what the future will bring!

With eyes, ears, and hearts open—from a distance



I am often led to arts enclaves by the artists who live and work there. Such was my introduction to Rockport, Massachusetts last summer, and so deep was my infatuation, that I have already booked a week there this summer.

Rockport, Mass sits on the northern coast of the state, just past Gloucester, on the very tip of Cape Ann. The artist who led me there was a wonderful contemporary architectural landscape painter named David Arsenault, whose work I have followed for several years. His aesthetic is to paint clean, crisp visions of the simple elegance of these landscapes. His website invites you to visit both the town he loves to paint (complete with lodging information and local events), and the gallery he now occupies on Dock Square (a move from his previous location on Bearskin Neck).

What is it about this place?

Take a look at the location and you’ll see why the fascination with Rockport. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Boston—but it couldn’t be further from the city. The energy here is slow and easy during the day, warm and bubbling at night.

No Coastal MA map

The Massachusetts Coastal Zone Map (full map available at http://www.mass.gov)

Yes, this is Yankee country—where “ahhhhr’s” float on the wind. You can walk Bearskin neck to the tip of Cape Ann in Rockport and from that vantage point, the Altantic surrounds you on three sides. It’s a picturesque place that has inspired artists for centuries, as well as photographers, and even filmmakers.

In nearby Gloucester, the famous fisherman statue leans into the wind It’s the oldest seaport in America, home of Gorton’s, the originators of the fish stick, and the port where the families of the Andrea Gail crew waited for the six fishermen who never returned from The Perfect Storm. But you can relax there, with a nice meal harborside.

Just west of Rockport is Manchester-by-the-Sea, now best known as the site of the Oscar-nominated film from 2016. (Much of that film was also shot in Rockport.)

Motif #1v5

And the next time you watch Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, you’ll realize she didn’t go all the way to Sitka Alaska, but to Rockport (and other surrounding areas). You’ll recognize the iconic replica of a fishing shack called “Motif #1” (pronounced Mow-tiv, ask the locals why), which Wikipedia refers to as “the most often painted building in America.”

Rockport was designated one of the 10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in New England by Yankee Magazine—and it’s well deserved. This tourist haven blooms primarily in the warm breezes of the summer (although there are activities year-round, particularly at Christmas), with an easy pedestrian shopping district filled with crafty shops with stories and interesting items from around the world—handmade ponchos from South America and French linens and drums and perfumed oils—not to mention the pewter and woodwork and ART everywhere. You actually can get something here that won’t be in every tourist town in America.


The Beach

Okay, it’s everywhere. Rockport is really more like a peninsula jutting out into the ocean, so it’s easy to find a bit of public sand or a bench to sit and enjoy the views, or can take a nice dip (and you don’t even need hotel access). There’s also other stuff, like kayaking, whale watches, fishing excursions and boat tours (check www.rockportusa.com). My personal recommendation is to just hop on the water taxi in Gloucester at any stop.

The Rockport Arts Colony

The village wakes up in summer like the opening of a Disney movie. Last summer, my friend and I came of out breakfast in the main square and stepped right into a little parade, complete with a marching band. Music can be heard frequently on the streets, but the real deal is the spectacular Shalin Liu Performance Center, with its amazing backdrop of the coastline behind an impressive showcase of performers of all styles (classical, jazz, pop, folk, orchestral and choral). It’s a focal point of the village, a nice stroll from many of the hotels and inns and nestled between a number of restaurants and art galleries.

Rockport1 2016

And, don’t forget the ART. Rockport is home to 30 galleries that show the works of hundreds of local artists. Visiting artists of all kinds are encouraged to set up easels and can easily by guided to many local spots for painting by the gallery owners in town. The Rockport Art Association also hosts a number of art exhibits and painting workshops where you learn the best of what these artists have to teach.

Two art-related events worth noting are:

Head to Gloucester for the small galleries, restaurants and shops of Rocky Neck and the Cape Ann Museum where you can explore the gloriously rich maritime and granite-quarrying history of this tiny New England region through centuries of fine art and sculpture.

Just so you know, there are many things that I’ve missed, so you’ll just have to go and explore it yourself (and share what you learn in the comments).


David Arsenault in his studio, August 2016

Make sure to say hi to David and talk to the locals—they love Rockport and Gloucester and will be very happy to tell you so much more about it!

More Reading:

In Rockport, artists kept the Depression at bay (Boston Globe, 2010)

Artists of Cape Ann – A 150-Year Tradition – by Kristian Davies, 2001

© Copyright 2017– Arts Enclave.

By land or by sea, turtles are awesome. They are the quietly intrepid explorers of our world who have been around for 157 million years, give or take a few, sharing the planet with everything from dinosaurs to us. They don’t talk. They don’t tell jokes or perform tricks. They make very unaffectionate pets—and yet few people don’t stop to watch a turtle just sitting in the sun or swimming about in a tank.


Here’s a painting (sorry, it’s already sold!) by Adirondack landscape artist Sandra Hildreth, called “Big Snapper in East Pine Pond” (oil, 9×12).

“I was out in my solo canoe on East Pine Pond, in the St Regis Canoe Area, and spotted the curved shape of the shell (the carapace) from some distance, not sure of what it was. I had my camera, with a good zoom lens, and zoomed in to see it was this very large snapping turtle that actually seemed to be dozing, resting on top of some dead trees in the water. As I drifted closer I actually wondered if it suddenly dove into the water, would it create a wake and capsize my canoe! Of course not… but the shell was probably close to 24” long – hard to judge the size in the painting. It did hear me coming, lift up it’s head, then quietly slipped into the water like a submarine. So it was just a pleasant memory that I wanted to record in paint.” SANDRA HILDRETH

The Earth is home to approximately 327 species of turtles, living all over the world, on land and in the sea, according to Wikipedia. Sea turtles became a separate class around 110 million years ago.

What are they watching? What do they think about the world? We carry images of turtles as being wise creatures, slow and patient—the ones that cross the finish line. Will they still be here after we are gone? Turtles pose questions, they don’t answer them.

Personally, I harbor the hope that if I come back after this life, it will be as a sea turtle, encircling the globe, swimming free through the worlds oceans. They seem peaceful. They live their lives and don’t bother anybody or anything, but they come in contact with every part of the planet, silent, observing all.


“Righteous the Sea Turtle” by Marianne R. Schmidt (Acrylic paint, 24 X 30 on gallery wrapped 1.5 canvas)

“I try to affect people’s emotions in a positive way when I paint. If one of my pieces can bring a smile to someone’s face and glorify God then it was worth all the hours it took me to create it. I have become rather fond of him as many folks have told me it is their favorite piece from me so far.” MARIANNE R. SCHMIDT

Learn more about sea turtles and how to preserve them from the Olive Ridley Project.

Or just enjoy reading stories about them:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

The Lathe of Heaven Ursula LeGuin

The Phoenix and the Turtle William Shakespeare

The Slow Waltz of Turtles Katherine Pancol

The Turtles of Oman Naomi Shihab Nye

Turtle Diary Russell Hoban

Turtle Moon Alice Hoffman

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories Dr. Seuss


© Copyright 2017– Arts Enclave.



I fall in love every 8 or 9 years—with a car. My latest love is a Renegade, cute and tight of butt, with a flashy grin.

Renegade Day 1.jpg

Ready for new adventures in my Renegade (I even like the name!)

I have lengthy conversations with myself—and several thousand people, dead or alive—at different points in time within my car. It knows my secrets and my foibles.

It knows my dreams. And it is my partner on an adventure through life.

Every car I have owned has helped define what matters to me, and my auto progression mirrors my personal evolution into an artist. My first cars were practical little economy models—a yellow Toyota Corolla when I was single and then later a candy red 1991 Mazda Protege when I was a working single Mom. It was just compact enough for me to talk to my son in the car seat in the back, and it got great gas mileage for the 52-mile daily commute to my communications job. I was too tired back then to do much writing, and art and music stayed in the closet, so I didn’t need much room other than that.

With a new relationship and plans for a bigger family, I wanted a car that hauled lots of things. My next car, a 1998 Subaru Outback, (the awesome two-tone dark blue and gray that you still see driving around) seemed earthy and cool at the same time. It was the car that I went from a staff job to freelance writing, hauling around my mac in the backseat like it was a laptop, with my kid and his friends. It was the car my guy and I took on ski and summer vacations and just riding around Connecticut. It was the first car that took us to the Adirondacks, and later took me there on my own when he was no longer in the picture. It was the car I drove to Montreal for a freelance job (reporting on a medical conference), crossing back over the border one day after the world economy collapsed. It was the car I took to the Habitat houses that our affiliate built (I worked for them) and took to my classes at NYU film school, when I got a certificate in directing.


Not actually my old car, but a clever impersonator!

For years that car had carried me and my son and my dreams. I moved everything could find in that car, took it on dirt roads and highways, through rain and especially snow. That car made me if not fearless, at least a hell of a lot braver. It taught me to go after everything I wanted.

After that, I became more and more adventurous, and my aging Outback was beginning to feel the strain. It was hard to leave the old car behind, because I had experienced so much life from behind the wheel. My son had grown up in that car, and I handed over the keys to a dealer with a real feeling of sadness before I drove away in my new gold 2007 Outback with heated leather seats and a moon roof. I had fallen in love on the internet that time, and drove to Quincy MA from Fairfield CT for the trade.


Stopping last summer with friends in Newcomb, NY, for the best ice cream in the Adks!

It wasn’t long before we were devoted companions. In 2008 I finished film school and was working on the locations crew of a film in CT (a Tim Allen movie nobody ever saw). My first day involved driving to Westchester Airport at 4AM to put large signs on the highway to direct the crew to the set. That car did a lot of movie work, scouting locations and hauling supplies for the crews at all hours. It saw every town in the state of Connecticut.

It also took me to the Adirondacks every summer, where I explored art communities and shows—all the events I began to blog about for Examiner.com and later, right here on Arts Enclave. If I went somewhere, it was in the Gold Outback, the music blasting while I sang along.

The Gold Outback was the car that I became a painter in—mostly pastels, but some oils and a little watercolor. In 2015, we followed the trail of the two escaped killers from Clinton correctional prison in Dannemora, NY for a book I’m working on.

Every day with that car I became closer to the person I am today. It took me decades to evolve to this place, where every day I write, practice music, and explore art of all kinds.

The people who make up my world now are writers and artists and musicians, and I plan to spend more time with them. I’m ready to strip down my universe to just the artistic essentials—my laptop, my guitar, my camera, and my art supplies. I’m more mobile than I ever was before, and I wanted a smaller car that made me smile.

I have a novel out with 14 editors, and a pretty cool agent who stands behind me. I’m working on the next novel and the book about the Dannemora escape. I’m hoping that pretty soon I’ll be zipping around to give readings in my bright red Renegade . We’re gonna see a lot of new places together.

“I don’t think about Art when I’m working. I try to think about Life.”

                                     —Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)

I’m not alone in my attachment to my car. Most of my artist friends drive SUVs or hatchbacks—for transporting canvasses. But my writer friends Jelane and Eileen have relationships with their vehicles that go way beyond simple companionship. Read about their adventures across the country in Travels in Abbey.

What’s on your keychain? Share your vehicle story in the comments!

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

If you’re wondering what’s going to happen to your healthcare insurance, you are in the company of millions.

No one, including Donald Trump, can predict what changes are coming. Trump is not a detail person, and despite tweeting that “there will be healthcare for all,” he doesn’t get the massive complexity of creating healthcare policies for a nation as large as the US.

He is talking about Universal healthcare—that big scary word that everyone despised when former President Obama first presented the notion back in the beginning of his presidency (and when others presented it during the decades before). Now Universal Healthcare is a Good Thing. It is, in fact, a Trump thing.

But what will the search for Trump’s bigger-better-more-important-than-ACA-unihealth do to the existing system? And what will it mean to you?

I decided to get some answers from someone on the front lines, insurance broker Jesse D. McDonald, who has worked for more than 20 years with the changing healthcare laws in CT.

Jesse offered his very well-informed perspective on where things may be headed. Here are some of his insights – but you should listen to the full interview for yourself!


Highlights of my interview with Jesse D. McDonald of Modern Insurance, Milford CT

BIG CHANGES AHEAD: When could we see changes that actually affect policies?

Even fast actions are not likely to affect 2017 coverage.

“Usually, major pieces of legislation are forward-looking and are not going to be retroactive. The defunding of aspects of Obamacare—which is going to be mainly subsidy related—is going to be forward-looking, and 2017 is pretty much etched in stone….The only thing anyone can do right now, especially given the uncertainty of what’s to come is to make sure they have coverage now in place.”

You have another 4 days left to obtain coverage through the ACA for 2017, which starts on March 1st. If you don’t have coverage, visit www.healthcare.gov for information.

COVERAGE: Why is having coverage now important if it’s going to change?

“One of the Republican healthcare plans being put forward is from the incoming Health and Human Services Secretary representative out of Georgia named Tom Price, who is likely going to be confirmed…His healthcare plan has a stipulation that preexisting conditions are going to be covered under health insurance plans in the future, but only if you’ve had 18 months of continuous coverage in effect, as of the time the new system starts.”

PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: What’s happening there?

“Now [on Obamacare], as soon as you’re approved for coverage, from Day 1 your pre-existing conditions are covered. I think it’s going to be very difficult for Republicans to go back on that in any way.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Trump said that he plans to “give healthcare to everybody.” The Republicans revised that to mean “access to healthcare for everybody”. What does that look like?

“These are really broad terms and they sound like semantical distinctions between somebody advocating for some form of universal healthcare system—and not realizing that he’s saying that—and his political party saying that they don’t believe in a government-run system, ‘We want the market to take care of it.’”

“The deeply-held belief of many Republicans on healthcare policy is that the market will come up with solutions for gaps in our healthcare system. Some of those ideas are not necessarily wrong, there’s just some disagreement about how viable they really are in the real healthcare world.”

“Either way, both these statements are very broad political appeals to voters and they don’t really mean anything. At this time, there’s no concrete legislation drafted and submitted to congress…”

“Trump’s goal is health insurance for all. He has a lot of confidence in himself, the President-elect, and his goal is to win, and do better than Obamacare, which will mean even more people covered. And he believes that plan can be implemented quickly.”

                                                     – Jesse D. McDonald


REPEAL AND REPLACE – How fast can a replacement be put in place?

Trump’s order calls for replacement ‘within the hour of repeal…’

“I think policymakers, lawmakers—which are the congresspeople and senators—they know these things don’t move that quickly….This is a prediction on my part: you’re likely to see some sort of a resolution that repeals ACA over a timeline which keeps it in effect for longer than they would have liked to while they craft their replacement.”

INTERSTATE INSURANCE: All plans are currently state-based, meaning you need to be insured in the state in which you declare residency, and if you move, you lose your insurance. Many artists, particularly performers, travel and often move. How should they look to ensure continuity in coverage?

“The Affordable Care Act has a couple of things that protect people in regards to mobility. One is, even though you have to purchase a policy in your state of residence…If you have a medical emergency in any other part of the country, the health insurance you have has to consider those services as in network, as if you were home…Another thing is, if you do move…you do have 60 days to buy a new policy so you have time to get it in place.”

Interstate policies, according to Jesse, are not feasible for a number of reasons.

So, how freaked out should we be?

“There are many people who are very anti-Obamacare, and they have listened intently to what politicians have said during the campaigns and they’re expecting Obamacare to go away overnight and something bigger and better to come in and save the day. You can’t count on that. Healthcare legislation is complicated…”

“Having coverage in effect now is the best thing you can do…Because until the law is repealed, if you go beyond January 31st with no coverage, you can’t buy coverage again until November for the next year—and that’s dangerous in and of itself.”

“It’s very wait and see. I don’t think anyone should be freaked out at this time.”


1) Get covered!

2) Keep up with changes

3) Ask questions

“Make sure you ask questions. The best information is going to come from an independent health insurance broker that is a member of an organization called The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU)…our version of a Bar Association.”


Jesse D. McDonald, of Modern Insurance in Milford CT, is available to answer questions for people who have or are seeking healthcare coverage in the states of New York and Connecticut. He can be reached at 203-882-9805 or by email at jesse@modern-healthinsurance.com



NYTimes – Jan 21, 2017  Trump Issues Executive Order Scaling Back Parts of Obamacare

USA Today – Jan 23, 2017  GOP senators outline first Obamacare replacement plan

Money Magazine – Jan 17, 2017 – HR2300 Here’s the plan Trump’s health secretary pick doesn’t want to discuss

The Fiscal Times – Nov 30, 2016  8 Big Changes Under Tom Price’s Obamacare Replacement Plan

CNN.com – Jan 16, 2017  Trump’s HHS pick doesn’t want to flaunt his own Obamacare bill at confirmation hearing


© Copyright 2017– Arts Enclave.


It may be a while before we find our way home again.

This blog has fallen idle in the past year or two because truthfully, I didn’t know what to say anymore. I wrote my first post on Christmas Eve, 2009, after something we never knew could fall did, and the message was that Art Matters. From then on I wrote about the crossroads of where Art and Life meet. There was no shortage of topics—just a shortage of time to cover them.

But as life around us grew more serious with events like Aurora and Newtown*—which occurred just 11 miles from where I was living at the time, and two days after I interviewed Kenny Loggins and the Blue Sky Riders—it seemed that art of all kinds began to recede into the background. Dare I say it—we became less relevant?

And now, on the first day of a very different world for all of us, it seems that the last thing on the agenda is art of any kind. Artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, writers, etc.—we all seem to be quite beside the point.

But nothing is further from the truth.

What you do with your art in the next few years will be informed by the massive changes in the way we are coming to live and to think on a daily basis. We will all be challenged on our values, no matter what they are, because we now cohabit a world in a heightened state of disagreement, of conflict, and of confusion.

History does repeat, and looks at lot like the early 60s, a time that led directly into a creative explosion. Art thrives in adversity and finds its voice. Artists of all kinds are ridiculously brave in the darkness, willing to put fingers out into the unknown and explore whatever could be out there. What they show us about ourselves through songs and movies, in paintings and stories, will amaze us and open our hearts. It happened before and will happen again, and soon.

Of course, there is a unique lack of appreciation for any of the arts within the new administration, which has set as one of its first goals the elimination of funding to the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH). Really? A world in crisis and the first order of business is to cut out the arts? But I do digress….

The arts are and have always been the soul of our entire way of life. Artists are now charged with preserving our culture, as they have been since the first cave drawings were made. We capture not just the facts, but the raw emotions of the smallest moment in time, protecting and projecting images of who and what we are that are likely to outlive any number of transitions in our government.

And in the middle of the chaos to come, the words, the pictures and the thoughts will be released from a collective creativity that will lead us to understanding, to empathy, and hopefully to peace of mind. The message today is the same as it was in 2009: Art Matters. And now it matters more…please keep at it.

So welcome again to the Arts Enclave Blog – Where Art and Life Meet!

*going right up to the biggest and most lethal shooting in Orlando in December of 2016

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

My father had a lot of 5-year plans, one of which was to build a rock garden in the front yard by the driveway, an area that was occupied by—well, a rock. He went out on weekends for an hour or two at time with a screw driver, a giant spoon and a children’s sand sifter and chiseled away at that rock, excavating small piles of dirt and sifting it to remove pieces that prevented anything from growing. I have to admit, after five years, he did have a little garden growing there, but shit, aren’t there better ways to spend your time—and still get a garden?

Recently I have discovered (to my utter consternation) that I am apparently a chip off the old rock sifter. After spending nearly five years collecting pieces of a novel, I then wrote the first complete draft in four months, the second in another three months and submitted it to agents. It got me representation, but the book still needed work—a lot of work.

So here I am, six months later, chiseling away at this stupid rock of a book with a tiny little screw driver. Actually, I’m using a fairly new Mac Airbook and Microsoft Word, but it feels like I’m pouring a thousand pounds of dirt through a plastic sieve, one spoonful at a time.

I have been using Word ever since I switched from an IBM Selectric in the early 90s (no comments needed)–and it has served me well. In the beginning of this process, it was easy: just open a new Word doc and start typing—anything at all. It was all draft stuff anyway, so it didn’t matter. Over the last five years of writing this novel, I collected nearly forty documents with file names like, ‘the girls,‘ and ‘the cat.’ Unfortunately, I don’t recall what these subtitles mean anymore. I end up opening the files to read them again–and I don’t get much writing done.

So, this was my process (see below). If you are writing anything longer than a few pages, or you write a lot of different things and you are still doing it this way, you can easily see that it’s time to make a change!


When I assembled the first draft last year, I did chapter files and kept a tracking sheet. Then I put the chapter files together into a single draft document and did the first revision, naming them “master document” and “Master2”.

To prepare for agent submissions, I had to create sample files of the first 100 pages, the first 5 pages, the first 2 chapters and the first 3 chapters, all of which went in a sample folder. Along the way, every time I read something, I changed it, basically corrupting the integrity of the other files.

Next I did submission letters and created a submission tracker in Excel. It’s very handy, but let’s face it, I’m spending a ton of time as my own secretary, instead of writing.

And that’s just the beginning.

Then I began a major revision for submission to publishers. First, I divided the book into four parts to make it more manageable. The problem was, it wasn’t manageable. I keep forgetting what happened in previous chapters and when it happened, I was losing track of plot points, and felt a need sketch plot diagrams on napkins like an imprisoned lunatic. I have lots of napkins, but none of them really make sense.

And then, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I got stuck. I had a huge time loop that wrapped around itself like a pretzel in a novel that did not involve time travel. I was ready to revert to 19th century thinking–handwriting the plot points of the WHOLE BOOK on note cards. Even in my deranged state, I could see this was a 3-month project that might not even get me back on track.

I knew it was time for something drastic–yes, a change in my perfected writing rituals. If you write at all, you know we are a superstitious lot. Many writers insist on writing only on a typewriter. Many will use a word processor (like Word), creating their own archaic system of tracking versions, changes, submissions, notes, ideas, and mental breakdowns. Many of us still hand-write our first drafts on yellow legal pads, because the writing flows more naturally that way. Many of us are idiots. (Not you, of course, the other idiot).

I am here to say, I have been reborn, and it is a wonderful thing. I will not enslave my brain anymore to trying to figure out how to create a sequenced outline from a mess I started years ago (my next book has some notes that go back even further).  This is the twenty-first century!  People monitor their heart rates on little wristbands and play games with the people sitting next to them via satellite. We must certainly have developed some kind of organizational software for the throngs of us ambitious enough to attempt our version of Harry Potter or Carrie. (Neither Rowling nor King used special software for these books, and they may not now, but if they read this post, they too will be converted).  We do. Some very clever people have already thought it through and come up with some very inexpensive ways to save your brain for your story.

So I did a little research on novel writing and plotting software and here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Most programs are cheaper than you would think (ranging from $19.95 – $100.00 US)

2) They offer many of the tools I have been developing inadequately on my own, including character notes files, plotting devices and timelines, submission trackers, and revision tools to help you keep the various versions organized.

3) There are important differences among them, and you may want to use more than one

4) Many of them don’t come in Mac versions


5) The time it has taken me to research the software and write this post is a mere drop in the sand sifter compared to the days and weeks I have been wasting on documenting and managing the plot twists and character development through the many rewrites.

BTW – I can spend my time reviewing software for you, but others have already done it better:




Thanks to one of these programs, I did finish the submission draft, which goes out this week. As soon as the new revision of the book–still called Of Yin and Yang–goes out, I’ll share what it took (a lot) to train my brain to adapt to this new process, which I’m already enthralled by.

…But that’s a story for another day.

© Copyright 2015 – Arts Enclave.