Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life



24 MAY 2020 – Llano Quemado, New Mexico – An old habit of mine is to give permission to start life over anytime I experience major shifts or changes.  Turning 80 last year and after some major health issues, every day has been a New Beginning.  The minute my eyes open, I experience a delightful surprise.  Another day!!!  There was, however, a certain hesitancy to make plans for the “future”.  My approach has become somewhat fatalistic.  When will “it” happen?  How close am I to that Big Easel in the Sky?  If I start this 36″x48″ canvas….a thousand reasons to avoid living!

And then came the Pandemic!!!  All of a sudden, left to my own devices it became necessary for me to stand on my own two somewhat wobbly feet one more time.  As each day has passed, I realize that I’ve had enough energy and strength to reach a level of independence not experienced in a very long time.  Surprise, surprise! Bitching and moaning to myself before each “insurmountable” pile of chaos, lists I never could quite complete in a minute or less, I have chipped away a little bit every day!  “How do you eat an elephant?” – One Bite at a Time!  Instead of trying to do everything at once, I took small bites out of the biggest jobs like the taxes, filing piles of papers, etc. Afternoon naps have helped a lot! 

Last night I had this beautiful dream that I was nine months pregnant with a baby girl – just waiting for that first labor pain.  Hadn’t felt movement in a while and worried that something had gone wrong.  All of a sudden I felt a strong bump to my rib cage – then my eyes opened to another beautiful New Mexico morning!

A great cup of coffee this morning and some amateur dream translation, I believe this is a message from my overworked Art Gods!  Whenever life becomes cluttered and confused, I struggle to find the door to a solution.  The more I struggle, the answers will elude me.  Taking life one step at a time – just putting my head down and doing the work the answers appear in the most amazing ways….my dream was about fertility.  Stop hesitating.  Adjust, adapt – CHANGE my thinking!  One painting at a time….

This social isolation has been a surprise – a gift of time to be clear about my choices.  Deciding not to grow a garden felt like a defeat – a concession to old age.  Last night the KOBTV weatherman said that northern New Mexico is under a severe drought now – high winds, fear of forest fires.  Enough energy to paint without doing battle with Mother Nature.  Good decision.  Buy a bread making machine, a new Epson large digital printer; put my head down and just do it! 

In between my Martha Stewart moments of cleaning and organizing, I have gathered source material – images – photos from recent field trips.  The fire has been lit one more time.  This is my New Beginning – this is the message in my  dream was to let go – Stop Hesitating!!! All I have is today!  Fresh mix of painting medium, a new palette and a list of art supplies to hold me until Christmas. 

May 27th marks my 35th year of sobriety.  Have been struggling with the decision to tell my story of recovery “How the Real Betty Ford Saved my Life” — hesitating!  What if my story would resonate with another woman out there?  I need another dream…

Being alive is a total surprise, isn’t it?