The weather is a lot more bearable when it’s not the main topic of conversation at a gathering.
That’s sort of where author Paula Pugh is coming from with her new book, “Celebrating Beginnings and Endings, Mark the Moment Book 1.”
Pugh will introduce the book Thursday, May 10, at 1 p.m. at the Freeland Library, sign copies and talk a bit about the ideas behind it.
“I am not a person who likes to live on a superficial level,” the Langley writer said.
But the family gatherings of about 80 people that she had been attending for many years did not go deep. There was a lot of catching up on the weather at these reunions, but no real connections were being made.
“The following reunion I asked if I could help with an opening ceremony,” Pugh said. She had everybody line up by age, introduce themselves, tell how they were related to the group and then reveal something important that happened to them in the past year.
“For the first time I knew who everyone was,” Pugh said.
“We saw where we all fit in with regard to generations, and heard everyone’s voice and a mini story.”
This was the moment Pugh realized she could make a difference.
“Even with that simple orientation, the ‘feel’ of the weekend started off more connected and less disjointed,” she said.
For the next 15 years, Pugh paid close attention at events and collected the stories that appealed to her and looked for ways to forge a positive connection wherever she landed.
“As far as I can tell, when people can experience a low-cost alternative to ‘partying,’ and where hearts connect and stories are heard, they realize that they can create these events for themselves. I am less an expert than a guide and encourager,” she said.
“Celebrating Beginnings and Endings” is a book that helps folks honor special moments in life with intention, rather than by just throwing money at them. It includes formulas and guidelines to follow to make it easy to create a plan.
Intention, Pugh said, is key to marking a moment. If the meaning is clear why everyone has gathered as a group, the rest will unfold naturally.
“This is a guide for helping people become more aware of the importance of ritual, celebration and marking life’s milestones,” Pugh said.
In this commercial based society, she said, it’s a shift for people to think about low-cost ways to do things, which are meaningful.
She said the family gathering is a good place to start. Perhaps approaching a birthday or a holiday without the usual commercial trappings.
“The words I would focus on for this experience are personal, inexpensive, participatory and creative,” she added.
The guide can also be used in the larger settings of community or even in the workplace.
Pugh uses her experience as a facilitator of women’s growth circles to show readers how to set the stage for celebrations marking beginnings, such as births and graduations; transitions such as coming-of-age, empty nest changes or retirement; and the tougher endings, which might include a miscarriage, planning a memorial or a funeral or even burying a pet. Each section lays out clear steps for preparation, actions to take and how to let go of expectations and remain present in the moment of the event.
“My 102-year-old friend Victor, who helped me edit this book, calls it a book about love’s ideas to restore and reinvent places where people can learn to express appreciation, tell their stories and be witnessed in a supportive setting,” Pugh said.
“Celebrate Beginnings and Endings” costs $19.95 and is available at www.mark-the-moment.com, at Moonraker Books in Langley and at the Freeland Library event.
Another new book on island shelves is Yvonne Palka’s “Super Simple Sumi-e.”
“Everyone smiles when they look at it,” Palka said of why she is proud of her delightful new book.
Palka made Whidbey Island headlines when she published her children’s novel, “Dragon Fire, Ocean Mist,” in 2009, which is illustrated with the author’s inkbrush paintings.
Her new book provides directions for getting started in the sumi-e painting technique and teaches older kids and adults how to do various brush strokes and follow a step-by-step primer on howto bring snails, mice, rabbits, birds and panda bears to life with a few simple brush strokes.
Also taught are the steps involved in drawing trees and dragons.
Palka has been a student of the Chinese painting style for about 12 years and was inspired to write the book when she noticed a dearth of sumi-e teaching manuals in English. She had already started teaching the technique in elementary schools.
“I thought of the title, ‘Super Simple Sumi-e’ and I loved the sound of it,” Palka said.
“With a snazzy title like this, I just had to do the book!”
These days, Palka is back in the classroom teaching the ancient art form to children, using the steps outlined in her book.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed effective ways to teach sumi-e in schools,” she explained.
“Typically I will have the whole room set up so when the kids come in every place has the paper and all the supplies — the brush, the ink, the water — ready to go.
I start by telling them a little bit about the history of sumi-e, then I use a document camera to demonstrate the strokes and we start painting,” said Palka.
Working with the same editor and designer who helped to create “Dragon Fire, Ocean Mist,” Palka completed the book in six months.
“In sumi-e painting, one needs to be prepared to do a painting many times to get just the right one for the book,” she said. “And of course it was a great feeling when I finished the final composite painting of all the animals in the book.”
Her biggest challenge, she said, was to ignore her inner critic and get the paintings done. She’s thankful she did because the designer of the book, she said, did a spectacular job laying out the book and making her work shine on the pages.
But even more satisfying for Palka is that the book works.
“I’ve heard from parents and grandparents that the children in their lives have loved the book and have been painting the different animals very successfully,” she said.
It’s been a rewarding experience for Palka as a teacher, author and artist.
“Most kids have really loved doing it and have created paintings that they have been proud of. Even the ones who started out saying that they can’t draw have created good paintings that please them,” she said.
Palka will be back in the classrooms at South Whidbey Elementary School on May 10 and May 22, teaching students about sumi-e painting. She will also have a booth at the Whidbey Island Festival of the Arts on June 1 and 2 at South Whidbey High School, where she will be demonstrating and teaching sumi-e painting.
“Super Sinple Sumi-e” is $14.95 and is available at the author’s website at www.nwdragons.com, at Moonraker Books and Act II Puppets in Langley, Anchor Books in Clinton, Llynya’s in Freeland and the Honey Bear in Coupeville.
See some of Palka’s paintings on display through May at the Bayview Cash Store.