Monday, July 28, 2014

mortal moments

There are health hazards to watercolor painting.
Rinsing your brush in your tea is hazardous.
Sipping your rinse water is even worse.
But those pale in comparison to the hazard of proceeding with a divided mind.
My thoughts were obviously distributed equally about the globe when I sketched this little fairy to paint.
When my vision cleared, I discovered that I had drawn her on the back of the card. I decided to go ahead and paint her anyway.
She looked patient and understanding.
Just like my Auntie and that is who the card is for. I will tell her that the card is an object lesson of my week.
Of course, I painted her another just to show her that I could.
It's important to rise above these mortal moments.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

and love

Sometimes there is something about an old photo that draws me in.
As soon as I cropped this one, I knew what it was.
The light. The strong side light that is casting the faces into deep shadow. It may not seem the best light for taking a family photo but it sure is the best light for a painting.
I love strong light in paintings, especially water color paintings.
I think that because of that contrast of shadow and light, this picture would be wonderful even at a distance or in a dimly lit room. It's one of the reasons I love black and white photography. It becomes more about form and balance.
There's something else though that I can't help notice.
It's almost tangible.
The message that the body language adds.
My father is looking completely relaxed.
My sister is perched on his knee, her little hand just resting on his.
There is something so free and yet so safe about their posture.
My mother is turned slightly to face the photographer.
All the better to show off her tiny girl.
The baby is leaning forward as though yearning to stand on her own.
There is happiness in this photo, and pride.
And love.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

summer dress-up

Some summer dress-up for my grandchildren.
Pink handkerchief print for the girls.
Peasant dresses again.
I just can't get enough of sewing these.
And a tie for my grandson.
A fish tie with the days catch.

the title

Here is a picture of my sister dancing the limbo.
Or is she trying to catch her shadow?
The amazing thing to me about this photo, is that she is all alone.
No big sisters and brother.
That was apparently her big concern as well.
She didn't want to be all alone.
She wondered where her big sisters and brothers were when they flew the coop for school and play and she was left behind.
She wanted company.
I owe my very existence to her.
If she had been an independent thinker, she'd have held the title of youngest forever.
Instead, she enjoyed a brief reign as youngest, before I came and seized the title.

same summer sun

These little girls of summer are my big sisters. The oldest is happily holding an armload of carrots. She is clearly thrilled with helping. Thrilled with being photographed. Thrilled with the warm summer sunshine and the armful of surprising goodness from the damp garden soil. Isn't there just so much there to thrill a child? The attention of a parent. Pride at being allowed to help. Summer sunshine. Dirt. Something sweet to eat......
My big sisters are really just a year apart in age but because of where their birthdays fall in the year, the oldest had likely just turned three, the younger, twenty months. Soon two. Children who are Soon Two notice things. Details matter. True to form, the toddler is closely inspecting the carrot. She is probably wondering things. Things about dirt and about carrots.
When I look at this picture I am warmed by that same summer sun.  I can smell the dark, damp dirt still clinging to the carrots and feel their scratchy leaves. And summer is all around.

but by the seeds

 "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."
Robert Louis Stevenson


Pictures of me as a child are scarce as hen's teeth. It's a hazard of being last born I guess. By then my mother had run out of time and inclination and more importantly, run out of film.
I'm guessing that this picture was taken late in 1959. I am probably almost two.
I've talked about this picture before but I cropped it this time. It makes it seem like a completely different picture.
I'm quite taken with my little dress. The layered look would actually be quite at home in 2014. I wonder if my mother or grandmother sewed it?
And the fabric in my sisters perfectly lovely.
I've always been enamored with fabric prints. They are pieces of artwork.  Art walking about. 
The doll my sister's clutching is one of those wondrous toys that live at grandparents houses. Toys that have absorbed the love of a generation or two.
How diplomatic and wise of my grandmother to have two old dollies. It's hard to share babies. Even King Solomon knew that.
I seem to be counting toes on the doll in my lap.
"This little piggy went to market...."
I have obediently gazed at the photographer but as usual, I see nothing to smile about.
I've been interrupted after all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

when I remember

Do your remember Jelly Shoes and Jelly Bracelets? Neon and glitter? Huge hair bows? Big baggy sweat tops and perms gone wrong? That was the 80's. I had two little girls then and I'm sure they remember all of those things, some with a wistful sigh and some with a shudder.
I was a child in the sixties.
We wore lime green fishnet stockings, the Wet Look shoes, and pedal pushers and pop tops. Not all at the same time of course. I think pedal pushers have a fifties sound to them but then, I grew up in Blue River, that town time forgot.
I remember getting a pair of red shorts and a pop top the year I was six. The shorts had a wonderful pom pom fringe around the bottom edge and the top was printed with red tulips.  I loved that set. Of course, my mother, practically minded as she was, bought me clothes to grow into and so that first summer, the summer I was six, my pop top didn't really pop. It lapped modestly over the top of my shorts. My baggy red shorts.
The next summer, the top had crept a smidge higher and the fabric had softened nicely.
I think the top had a fringe around the bottom edge too and by the next summer, it was just brushing the waistband of my shorts.
By the next summer, my pop top was at last a genuine pop top.
I'd shot up but not out, just as my mother suspected I would.
I never grew out of that set.
I wore it out.
I imagine that's why I can remember it still.
It's what I see myself wearing when I remember summer.

team work

I came out into the bright sun and headed across the parking lot to my car.  Standing by the door, key in hand, I found myself staring in my car windows. Was it really my car? The key didn't fit.
I tried again.
I peered at my license plate.
My car alright.
What in the world?......
I walked around to the passenger side and unlocked the door.
I reached across and unlocked the driver side.
Back I went, and into the car.
I didn't really think about the lock driving home.
I just assumed the lock had seized up.
Just needed a squirt of oil.....
When I climbed the stair at home, I mentioned the lock to my husband.
He disappeared out the door in a flash.
Moments later he appeared.
It was just as he suspected.
A broken key was jammed in the lock.
He headed for his shop bench and I headed for Google.
I've come to think of Google as The Wise Man of the Mountain.
My husband headed back out armed with a handful of lock picking sorts of things.
I hunkered down in front of the computer and watched a youtube video showing Nine Ways to Remove a Broken Key.
My husband toiled on.
When he returned to the shop for smaller tools,
I tried one of the nine ways but it just didn't work without a second set of hands.
Back he came.
Grimly he crouched by the car door and squinted at the lock as he gripped impossibly small tools with his big hands.
He didn't want my help.
He didn't want my suggestions.
He didn't want the broken key to be in our lock.
There are shifting dynamics in marriage.
I suppose it is because even though we are married to the same person for many years, even though our friendship remains constant, our inner life does not.
It shifts and changes.
There was a time when I would have resented my husband not gladly accepting my help,
not welcoming working as a team.
On that day, I just felt pity.
And, when he disappeared yet again in what I could tell from experience was getting close to being his last desperate effort, I hunkered down before the door and tried one of the Nine Ways to Remove a Broken Key again.
Just as I jiggled the broken piece of key to the edge of the lock, my eyes crossing, my husband appeared like the cavalry over the hill and plucked it out with tweezers.
Team work.


I am hoping my pumpkin plants survive The Rabbit.
I can see how pumpkin plants could taste fine to a rabbit.
I am hoping my corn survives the heat.
I can see how extra heat could make a corn plant age before its time.
I am hoping my cucumber plants survive my grandson.
I can see how creating natural disasters with the garden hose and garden soil could be fun.
I am hoping my tomatoes survive not being staked.
And that my flowers survive my beauty loving granddaughter.
And that my hanging baskets survive my neglectful ways.
All things green and growing.
I am hoping there is an abundance of flourishing.
Not just survival of the fittest.

dragon breath

Summer has swooped down on us, as hot as a fire breathing dragon.
We cower in our houses.
Or scuttle into the shade,
or rush to and from our car.
As the great ball of fire rises ever higher overhead we hasten to close the window,
close the blinds,
hide away in the shadow.
We are surrounded by heat.
We breathe heat.
We are heat.
Night falls, but not the temperature.
The dragon stalks by night.

i hope

Under the leaves in my garden,
under the cool tangle of green,
down in the shadow,
hidden from all eyes,
a little rabbit has made a summer hide away.
One tiny rabbit.
A baby bunny all alone.
Where in the world did it come from?
How did it end up in my yard right in town.
My back yard is against a very busy street.
Dogs live in the yards on either side of us.
We've never had rabbits before.
But we have a bunny now.
When I water the front yard, it shoots from one hiding spot to another as the cold spray sweeps ever closer.
I can see that it is growing.
It could have rested on the palm of my hand the first time I saw it.
Now it is stretching out, sleek and sassy.
And well fed.
I can see the missing blossoms on the pumpkin vines.
Perhaps our little bunny will turn into an adventurous rabbit and seek its fortune in fields afar come fall.
I hope and so do my pumpkin plants.

Monday, July 14, 2014

so are we

There's a family living under our deck. A family at last. We thought our Robin Real Estate Listing had expired but a family has moved in and settled down.
We have a couple nests resting on the beam under our deck and this spring a blue/green egg appeared in both of them. There they were, like jewels, glowing in the shadow. A mother robin laid each egg as a practice run I guess. She didn't take to motherhood right away and as spring turned into summer, we at last removed the abandoned eggs with a sigh.
Perhaps all the activity overhead was the problem. You know what they say, location, location, location.
And then, just as we were on the verge of giving up, there they were.
Three blue/green eggs.
And all in the same nest.
And the mother was there too.
Flitting off the nest if our feet strayed too close above.
Always near, her bright eyes upon us.
And then one lovely day, the little trio of eggs hatched and three tiny naked birdlets lay panting.
"I can see their hearts beat," cried my grandson, peering between the boards.
Three infant robins.
Like any youngsters, they are never still.
And, they are always hungry.
The mother is never far away.
Her day is an endless cycle.
Find food, feed babies, find food, feed babies.
She has taken to motherhood.
She is watching babies become birds.
And so are we.

planes of time

"I think I need to let my family know I won't be getting home tonight," my mother says to me anxiously as I help her into bed.
I know she is lost in time but I say cheerily, "Well I'm your daughter. You can't get any more family than that!"
She seems comforted but minutes later, she suddenly appears in the doorway of the room I'm reading in.
"I think I need to let my Dad know I won't be home," she declares emphatically.
I always try to sooth my mother when she is confused without adding to her delusion. Just reminding her that she is a woman in her eighties has worked at times to bring her back to the present.
"How old do you think you are?" I ask gently.
"Fourteen," she says. almost like a question.
"Fourteen?" I repeat, momentarily caught off guard.
"Oh....or twelve," she says, misunderstanding my look of disbelief.

Dementia is a confusing state of mind.
My mother can still have a conversation.
Still has opinions about things.
Still makes jokes.
Still cares and is still interested in life around her.
It's just that the planes of time are gone.
She is here and there somehow at the same time.

The mother of my childhood was a woman, gentle and dependable. She was just always there.......doing the things mothers just did.
I never really thought about it.
As a teenager it occurred to me that my mother was eccentric and maybe she was.
She never marched in step with popular culture even when she was a teenager herself.
I realize, in looking back that the beginnings of her mental decline happened much earlier than any of us were aware.
She became somewhat distant and detached.
Her contributions to conversation were not always what the moment called for.
She began to loose her large and ready vocabulary.
She began to forget and just never stopped.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

all over again

Is knowing how to make playdough an essential life skill?
Probably not but plonking down a big lump of playdough turns your dining table into an artist's studio, a science lab and a pretend bakery all at the same time and that's pretty cool.
Here, for your edification and education is The Math Of Playdough.
One cup of flour+ one cup of salt + one cup of water+ one tablespoon of oil= a great lump of loveliness.
(Once mastered, you could probably add this to your resume).

-Have the children drag chairs to the kitchen counter
-Get a large bowl.
-Add one cup flour. Be sure to divide equally in half cup increments so that each child has an exactly equal chance to sprinkle flour into the bowl, onto the counter, themselves and the floor.
-Pause while youngest child fingerpaints designs in the flour on the counter.
-Continue by adding one cup of salt.
-Make sure to divide into two equal parts.
See above for reason.
-Add one cup of water. Divided equally of course.
-Add one tablespoon of oil. Quickly chuck it in. Remember, children are resilient. Or, if you are blessed with surplus patience, carefully divide into two equal portions.
-This is the best time to add a few drops of food coloring. 
-Sometimes, due to complex factors like humidity, or predictable factors like sloshing water and wafting flour, the end result needs a smidge more flour added.
Just knead it in as though you were making a teeny tiny batch of bright pink or green bread.

The recipe can be doubled but it is WAY more fun to just start at the beginning and do it all over again.

Friday, July 11, 2014

part of the summer

Playdough has been part of the summer fun around here. My granddaughter has rolled and patted and pressed her way into a pastel playdough patisserie filled to the brim with pink (of course) and blue pies and cakes, ice-cream cones and cookies.
My grandson, following other inspiration, has rolled his playdough into cocoons and chrysalis that have hatched into butterflies and beetles. He has formed fossils too. Lots and lots of fossils.
It has reminded me of a long ago summer day.
When my oldest daughter was two, I began to make playdough for her entertainment. Just like my granddaughter, she was transformed into a miniature baker. Cookies were her specialty.
My in-laws had come for a visit.
Grandpa was reading and my little daughter proudly carried a fresh batch of playdough cookies into the living room for his approval.
He promptly took a bite.
Moments later, he appeared in the kitchen doorway with my little daughter at his side. Neither of them looked happy.
"This sure is salty cookie dough," he lamented hastening to the sink.
"Oh, you didn't EAT it did you,?" I gasped.
My little daughter solemnly nodded.

kind of danger

Do you know how to make a paper airplane?
My husband can seize a piece of paper and wrangle it into a small winged wonder that zips and soars.
Not me.
It seemed a deficit in my resume as a grandmother.
It seemed I SHOULD know how.
Martha Stewart to the rescue.
Her book of crafts for kids is an anthology of wonders and has TWO paper airplanes to master.
Of course!
I should have known I would need two.
One for distance and one for stunts.
The distance flyer soars fast and far.
Its pilot obviously thrives on danger because mid-flight usually includes a flip and the whole world is upside down.
The stunt flyer loops.
And in such a giddy, unpredictable way.
Sort of like a boom-a-rang.
It is just as likely to circle swiftly round and buzz past your ear as it is to loop to the left or right.
That's the kind of danger I thrive on.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Do you remember when it seemed as though everyone was painting on something wooden? On some country plaque or wooden angel or bear? There were shops all over that sold pre-cut pine pieces. They carried every possible shade of paint in little flip top bottles, stacks of pattern books and had classes galore.
An artist, Sherry Nelson, was producing books then.
She painted birds and butterflies, rabbits and roses, and all kinds of other garden beauty.
I loved her work and painted this large plaque to hang above a door way, back in those days of wood.
It was based on a pattern found in her book, Critters In My Garden.
Even though the country look came ( and cluttered up our lives) and went (crowded out by the next inevitable style), I love this painting and it hangs on high in my entry still.

mostly wooden

I used to paint things.
Mostly wooden. 
Things like Welcome signs.
This one was for my daughter's first 'place of her own.'
It was inspired by a Cecily Mary Barker sketch in the fly of one of her books.
The sketch had no color so I just went with the two colors my daughter was decorating with then.

A fairy blithe and bold with an armful of summer.