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It’s been almost two weeks since the Almeda Fire happened. It’s been about two days since the severe risk has passed and about two hours since we’ve seen blue skies and can breathe fresh air.

The numbers are staggering. Over 2800 structures and homes lost. Hundreds of small businesses that thrived in this valley are gone. 3200 acres burned in the Almeda Fire. 32000 acres are burning in the Obenchain Fire, just 20 miles from here. (It’s 35% contained.) All of it is shocking on so many levels. The loss, the speed of it, the complete devastation, the overwhelming goodness and generosity of this community. I’ve struggled with what to say. My house is standing and I’m unspeakably grateful for that. I also had a very close call on the day it started. It is luck or providence or just mother nature that the winds didn’t blow this fire straight up the hill to our house. It was in sight. From my mailbox I can see acres of black scorched land that burned.

I’ve spent about 10 days in complete fear and anxious paralysis. Every time there is a county warning on my phone, I jump. The town is on very high alert with no rain. We’re nervous. No, we’re terrified. This happened in a blink of an eye. I’ve also spent the last two weeks in awe of this community. Collectively, you can feel it, all we want to do is help. In any way possible. Cash, food, volunteering, go fund me pages, supplies, toiletries, labor, you name it, there is a place to drop it off, kind volunteers sorting and distributing and people to help you. Red Cross and Fema are here. Money is flowing to the right people. It is a grieving community in action.

And I’m also trying to work and paint. It’s been a challenge. The level of stress and anxiety is not normal for an extended period of time. Yet here I am in my house contemplating that. All I can think about is the bravery of the fire evacuees, the fire fighters, the service workers, the pilots dropping water and retardant on the flames, the countless helpers who have showed up during this tragedy. The families who are navigating temporary shelter while trying to home school their kids during covid. Or go to work. File insurance paperwork. Go back to their neighborhoods. It’s pure bravery. xo

This lion came through me the other night. It was as if he needed to be painted and didn’t let me stop until he was on the canvas. If you look up the symbolism of a lion the most common words are majesty, strength, courage, justice and even military might. Lions also protect and guard. Yes, bravery and protection. That is what you feel here now. xo

“Brave” 24×30″

Fire update

Yesterday I wrote a very long heartfelt upsetting blog post. It was about the Almeda Fire that happened here on Tuesday. The day it started, how it started, where it was and what I saw.

I have published hundreds, maybe thousands of posts and not once has one not saved or accidentally been deleted. Yesterday it happened. I was so upset (not really, but nerves are high and everyone is on edge) that all my work was wasted but now I know it wasn’t. I wasn’t supposed to post it. It was too much.

I will post again and write about it but for now, this is the update. I am safe. The house is safe. The fire devastated 1500 homes, countless businesses we don’t have a tally on and thousands of people are displaced. It is awful.

And Ashland and surrounding communities are coming together like I’ve never seen up close. This is war time here. There are shelters, food, clothing, gift cards, cash, toiletries and hot meals available from countless organizations. FEMA, Red Cross, neighbors, schools, churches, restaurants and regular folks setting up shop doing every thing they can. People are giving and showing up. It it the only solace during this time.

On top of this, our community is still at risk. The danger is ever present and we are not off evacuation notice. Honestly? It’s terrifying.

One of the businesses we lost is Puck’s Donuts. This is probably one of our most beloved family run businesses. Always a smile, easily best donuts you’ve ever had and a wonderful family running it, always with a smile and thank you and your iconic pink box to go. It’s gone now. I’m posting this painting from several years ago cherishing the good memories of the day I painted it with my fellow art ladies who used to meet once a week.

Waiting, watching, praying for rain. xo

Talent OR and Remembering On September 11th

Greetings! On this the 11th day of September, I am thinking about my family, friends and colleagues who live in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley.  The Rogue Valley is our former home. To explain, eleven months ago my husband and I left the Rogue Valley and moved to the Washington coast. I point that out because […]

The post Talent OR and Remembering On September 11th appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Send mail! xo

I love the USPS. I think you probably do too if you’re reading this and are a snail mail, art loving, illustrated envelope appreciating, fun packages in the mail kind of person. I wouldn’t have a small business without the US Postal Service, that is for sure. I rely on it daily. I know my mail carrier, all the staff at my local post office and do the drive/smile/wave when I see their white trucks chugging along.

I created this little painting a few weeks ago and it touched my heart (and apparently many of yours). I’ve created a collection of postcards and stickers as giveaways to show support to your local USPS. Send mail! Buy a few extra stamps. Send a package or a postcard. All of it, every little bit helps.

With any purchase on my website through Labor Day Weekend, I am giving away 4 postcards and 6 stickers in every order. Send, share, mention in your order if you need more…I want to spread a positive message of gratitude to these hard working people. I’m sending as many as possible, giving away as many as I can with the hopes that some mail carrier glimpses this happy note and knows that WE CARE. xo

If you’ve been thinking about buying a book, fancy envelopes or a collection of new cards…now is a great time. Free goodies AND free shipping!!!

Hope everyone is doing ok out there. Labor Day, here we go September. xoxo

P.S. No code necessary.

My Favorite Classroom

It’s back-to-school season, but you might say I’ve been in summer school since July 4: the day I got married. I never knew that marriage would be my favorite classroom. I also never knew that no matter how much reading I did ahead of time, nothing would compare to experiential learning!


So-o-o much to learn. Such a variable curriculum, such a huge canon—love languages, personality styles, bathroom habits.


And I’ve never been more excited to study. 


I couldn’t really prepare for it like I did in my student days, by plowing through the required reading list and over-achiever-ing by plotting out the syllabus on my calendar. 


I couldn’t prepare for it like I did in my teacher days, by plotting units and setting assignments all the way till Christmas. 


So even though preparation is my superpower, I find myself releasing the ways I thought I learned best. 


And I am embracing every unplanned moment that arises. This photo is from last Sunday, when I looked up to see my husband smiling as he loaded the car after an afternoon on the lake. We had made a  detour there after an active camping weekend near the Deschutes River. The river was splendid, but he knows I love lakes, so he suggested we find one. 


On the obsidian-rich shore, we read aloud, napped, and played on the stand-up paddleboard. (My play looks more like a wobbly attempt to not to fall off. He can do a handstand on the thing…on a moving river). 

He is learning to enjoy the stillness I love, and I am learning to enjoy the motion he loves.  


It’s actually because of—not in spite of—our differences that we are on the trajectory for a master’s degree in communication someday. 


At this moment in our culture (and at any moment) we might do well to adjust our usual learning styles. We might do well risk wobbling as we try for new balance. To be still when we prefer motionor vice versa. Generally: to push the limits of our personal learning curves.


Here’s to embracing the classrooms of life: marriage and more. 

Bain de Soleil

I’ve just sent of a new batch of The Classics to Watson Kennedy in Seattle. I posted this funny memory lane image and the response was swift and resounding–apparently anyone who grew up in the 70’s or 80’s all have the same fond memories of this orange gel that was very fancy at the time. You, too, could look like George Hamilton in St. Tropez even if you were splashing around a pool in Toronto, Ontario. My mum used it, the chic tennis playing neighbor used it…the kids…well, we probably snuck it. But the smell! The consistency! The memories! I’m smiling just writing this.

Back to the easel, back to adjusting my list of classics as I go. Each time I paint a new one, another image pops in my head. I love it when creativity flows like this. Suggestions welcome! Any quirky nostalgic classic objects from your childhood? Or current faves? Old, new, seasonal faves or just tried and true things we go back to over and over because, well, they’re classic.

“Bain de Soleil” 10×10″ at Watson Kennedy


“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust.

Thank you thank you thank you to those charming gardeners in my life. Near and far, those I see regularly and those I think about every day. We’re all in this together. XO

“Charming Gardeners” 24×30″ available at Watson Kennedy in Seattle, WA

A Dance in the Sky


John Weber has been a presence in my life since 1954, our high school years. Even in his absences he has been present. This new book contains my memories of presence with him. The writing took me all that time. Even while I was veiled, a Catholic Sister in a convent, I wrote poetry inspired by him. Even while I was married to Pat Kelly, my first husband after leaving the convent, I wondered where John might be. And when Pat died, I thought I could feel John’s presence coming nearer every day. And sure enough, one day a few months later John came to find me.

I had written of him in journals and seen him in dreams, then suddenly, in 1985, he was standing right before me in a Minnesota coffee shop. He was saying, “You are exactly the same,” and lifting me high and higher while both of us were laughing with the magic of it all, the miracle. We seemed to be dancing in the sky. 

We joined our lives, married for twenty-three years, and then he died in 2008. I kept writing. All of it. A book, though, is more than just the writing of a life. I had to find a tone, a rhythm for the dance. It took another twelve years for that. But here it is.


I’m grateful to announce the publication of A DANCE IN THE SKY, A Memoir. It is the second volume in a series titled Three Husbands. (The third volume is still in the realm and form of experience). You can find volume 2 at in both paperback and kindle formats. Or you can order it from your local bookstore.

For your enjoyment I’ve included a little scene from 1958 when John and I were first aware of our love, but both of us were already committed to a different kind of life–he was signed up for a career in the Air Force, and I was already accepted to enter a Roman Catholic Convent. He was 18 and I was 17 years old.

It is a Friday night in spring, and John has shown up for the Teen Club dance at the Moose Lodge. He’d never attended before, and my heart knows he has come that night because I will be there. We dance. I leave with him. In memory I am walking down the hill with John towards the Baudette Bay. We turn the corner and walk alongside the bay all the way to my home. The air smells of wet leaves. I’m an April crocus. I’m water pressing under river ice, flowing towards the lake, breaking winter from beneath. Nothing can stop this movement. It is the attraction that moves the stars. I catch his eye.

He gazes at me–in the classroom, at Mass, from the Plymouth cruising down Main Street. When I walk beside him I am safe; I am who I am; I find myself; I feel the warmth of him even without a touch. He is John. He is God. How can there be any difference? My mind tells me there is certainly a difference, and I am moving towards danger. ‘You be careful!’ my mind warns. ‘If you really do intend to answer God’s call, you will have to leave this boy and soon. Don’t fall in love; it will be too hard.’ But it is too late. I am in love already.” 

I hope to meet you in these pages. You can purchase the book at



Interview with Jessica Lee Findleton

Interview with Jessica Lee Findleton

Sascha Meier of Alexandra Advisory Services shared this recent interview with Jessica Lee Findleton, an artist member of Southern Oregon Artists Resource, in her newsletter email yesterday.


Thrilled to offer you this spontaneous and relaxed profile of a Southern Oregon solopreneur, mixed media artist and mother of two. It’s a laid-back glimpse into the life of a multi-tasker who walks a path of steadiness, clarity, expression and accomplishment. Exquisite and original. We see her beautifully unique energy and imperfect attitude.

Meet our spirited, charming and charismatic female subject, Jessica Shyama Lee Findleton. Jessica is a mixed media artist, herbalist, nature photographer and garden designer. Her side hustle is green housekeeping for calmer, healthier, eco-friendly homes and air bnbs. I have attended her pop-up art shows and drank cappuccinos next to her installed pieces at local cafes, joined a painting workshop, commissioned her for fabric work – and we share a devotion to gardens.

When did you first feel comfortable saying you’re a professional artist and give us a little background?

In 2015, my art mentor Jean Pierre took me under his wing and offered encouragement to declare my artist path. 6 moons later I had my first official solo exhibit.

I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the South Fork of the American River in Lotus, California. Since 2015, I’ve been curating art shows in tune with the seasons and elements.  In order to tell my stories, I mix mediums together and combine colors with layers of jewel tones and metallic acrylics. I utilize hand stretched canvas frames and upcycled wood, sourcing ecological materials from nature that give new meaning to my designs. Bringing in personal imagery through paper and fabric collage and unique assemblages to offer depth and texture.

What is your personal philosophy? How do you integrate that philosophy into your life and business?

Persistence and patience go a long way. I keep going no matter what. Fluidity and creativity go hand in hand for me. I find Painting to be forgiving and it allows a full expression. Over time, I have experienced a lot of setbacks, challenges and rejection in the art world.

How do you fit your creative process in around parenting?

It is so tricky as a full-time single parent. Just declaring that creating is essential to my well-being feeds my soul. I often create art side-by-side with my son in the colder months by our wood-stove, or in the summer I’ll bring my projects into the garden.

What is the most bizarre object in your studio?

My son Riley made me a wooden figure and titled it “Husband.” It makes me laugh. He has a cynical expression.

When you start a new piece where do you begin?

A blank canvas invites so much possibility. I tune in and begin with a warm or cool palette. I’m pretty heavy on mixed media, so textures of paper and fabric frame. I inscribe secret poems and paint over them.

What music do you play when making art?

Mostly beach vibes & breezy acoustic. I used to like sad indie songwriters but now I gravitate more towards uplifting tempos.

Describe your morning routine

Rising is always…reaching for water. Hydrating myself and my plants. I like to pick a card from the wild unknown tarot for my alter and journal the morning pages, which is from The Artist’s Way. 15 minutes of brain drain. My to-do lists and answers in the questions are often decided in the process.

Do you meditate?

Yes. After attending Sascha’s mindfulness meditation day retreat, I have been returning to the practice. I mostly enjoy washing dishes. And walking meditation.

If you have windows, what do they look out on?

A bay window plum tree and my backyard garden.

What are you reading at the moment? 

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Chapman. And, any wild river guide I can find.

What do you bulk buy the most often?

Tea and herbs.  Brown rice – my kids love it.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

Low flowing slimy rivers and human trash.

Anything you consume on repeat when you’re working?

I like big jars of tea or lemonade. After I am done working, I appreciate a pot of vegetable soup.

What sort of personal, career or financial sacrifices have you had to make?

Full-time single parenting, homeschooling and working as a housekeeper has really cut into my creative time. It is a huge sacrifice to raise children in this way.

How often do you talk to other artists?

As much as a possible. I love hearing about their process and passions. I find it incredibly supportive as they often have so much insight. I really cherish my dear artist friend Jean Pierre Verdijo who resides in Austin, Texas. His art and voice deeply inspire me.

Have any guilty pleasures?

Buying records. Coffee. Chips.

What would you tell your younger self?

Follow your heart and dreams, not the party. Remember to breathe, let yourself slow down and be grateful for being in between, rather than racing to grow up too fast. There is no rush. Hold your fire close and do not give away your power in trade for approval, it’s not worth it. Stay humble. Stand up for yourself. Don’t tolerate and allow, set boundaries. Listen to your heart – don’t let anyone talk you out of your gut feelings.

Do you have a personal mantra?

Be gentle, wise, and kind. Humble your mind and steady your heart the rest will follow.

Jessica Shyama Lee Findleton. Mother of Solyana Maile, 16 & Riley Finn, 12. She is passionate about sharing art as therapy to children of all ages and offers art workshops and private sessions. Accepting art commissions. or Instagram: laceyriverbotanicals