Monday, December 29, 2008

Still life with bread

Fresh from the oven...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

people are just dying to be on my xmas list

A few years ago, PK and I were hiking along a fairly long and difficult ridge in the White Mountains. It was August, sweltering hot, and we weren't making anywhere near the miles per day that we needed to in order to make it to our next camping spot. We ended up spending the first night of the trip on the worst tent site I have ever slept on. I've been in some nasty areas with my little tent, but never had to sleep crammed between pointed, broken tree stumps before. Anyway, the next day we were hot, tired and fast approaching cranky when we passed through a rather large bog at the base of a steep mountain climb. We were loitering about, neither of us rushing toward what we knew would be a brutal climb, when we noticed the strange little flowers poking out of the weeds along the edges of the boardwalk. On closer examination, we discovered that the entire bog was full of blooming pitcher plants. We could look across the water and see hundreds of these strange little purplish-orange flowers peeking up through the reeds. Neither of us realized they grew in that area, or that they bloomed, and we spent a long time examining them, fascinated by these strange little carnivorous plants

So this year...

The action shot...PK planting the terrarium

We'll see how these bog plants manage in the arctic tundra land that is our apartment...

A little odd, yes, but it sure beats another scented candle, eh?

Friday, December 26, 2008

and now, a break from thinking about snow...

Jason deCaires Taylor recently created the world's first underwater sculpture park in Grenada, West Indies. His sculptures are created from materials that encourage underwater life to colonize and change them; the ecosystem itself is part of the sculpture, and the interaction of the two dramatizes the transformative nature of life. There is something haunting about these works, all cast from real people, all located in the ethereal underwater of the Caribbean sea. I can imagine what it must be like to dive among them-how fragile one might feel in the shifting water and soundless light.

More images of his work can be found here:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace on Earth, Good-will to Men

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


"On the first day of winter,
the earth awakens to the cold touch of itself.
Snow knows no other recourse except
this falling, this sudden letting go
over the small gnomed bushes, all the emptying trees.
Snow puts beauty back into the withered and
into the death-wish of nature and the deliberate way
winter insists on nothing less than deference.
waiting all its life, snow says, "Let me cover you."

- Laura Lush, The First Day of Winter

Monday, December 22, 2008


With the cold wind whipping 'round the roof beams and my holiday spirit dissipating into the aether, it's time to delve deep into the Old Sagas of the Northern Lands. Usually I love to read the Sagas of the Icelanders during the cold winter months--I wrap myself in a warm wool blanket, grab a hot cup of coffee and dive into the language and life of warrior-feuds, trolls and journeys over the wine-dark seas. But this year, it's Seamus Heaney's wonderful translation of Beowulf. Here's a snippet, from the point where the beast Grendel approaches the mead-hall, about to encounter Beowulf for the first time:

Then out of the night
came the shadow stalker, stealthy and swift;
the hall-guards were slack, asleep at their posts,
all except one; it was widely understood
that as long as God disallowed it,
the fiend could not bear them to his shadow-bourne.
One man, however, was in a fighting mood,
awake and on edge, spoiling for action.

In off the moors, down through the mist-bands
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.
The bane of the race of men roamed forth,
hunting for prey in the high hall.
Under the cloud-murk he moved towards it
until it shone above him,
a sheer keep of fortified gold....

And a little Hardanger Fiddle Music always seems to set the mood...
"Dervish" by Dan Trueman, linked from the HFAA website

Poetic Interlude "Snow Man"

"One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."

- Wallace Stevens, Snow Man

Sunday, December 21, 2008

snow on snow

Image from Rien Poortvliet, found here:

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.
-Christina Rosetti
Today, the second snowstorm of the weekend is blowing sideways across our small town. This morning PK and I took the 4wheel drive over to a small patch of conservation land near the bay and went for a ski with the pup. At first, the snow blistered against our faces and my fingers were numb inside my gloves, but as we sped up and moved from field to forest, things inside me settled into a comfortable rhythm. My body was warm, I could see tracks, muted by the new snow, leading into holes in the ice, the woods, along the path. All sorts of little animals had been busy in the night, scurrying from one hidey hole to another. At one point, we looked up and saw a Bald Eagle swooping low over the trees, perhaps heading towards open water for a snack before the storm increased. Now, at home, with the tree lights shining and a belly full of veggie barley stew, I am warm and happy, safe once again in my own comfortable burrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


These are some more photos from our yard the day after the ice storm that swept through and ravaged our small town, evidence once again that danger is so often quite beautiful. PK took the photos of the berries and twigs below just as the ice was starting to melt, and just before we lost power for a few days. We finally have power back, and are once again encased in our protective cocoon of technology. But for a brief few days, we read and played music by candlelight, huddled under blankets as the temperatures plummeted in the house, and froze our food outside in the garage. We paid close attention to the world around us, waiting to see if the pipes would freeze, or if we'd lose all the vegetables we'd gathered and prepared from the garden. For a moment we were reminded of how good we have it these days...and how easy it would be to lose it all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Word I seem to use too often in talking about other people's artwork: 'amazed'

Words I will try to use more often in describing other people's artwork, courtesy of Roget's International Thesaurus: 'impassioned','ecstatic', 'feverish', 'discomposed', 'in a dither', 'heave', 'pant', 'tremble', 'go hog wild', 'overpower', 'overmastered', 'wonder', 'marvel', 'thunderstruck', 'awestruck', 'stupefy', 'transcendent', and possibly 'rapt'.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Saturday, December 6, 2008

processing some thoughts on 'product'

For the past week or so, I’ve been watching my students give presentations on their “passions” in life. For many, their passions involve something creative. In particular, one student talked about his passion for blacksmithing. On further questioning, it turns out that he owns a forge, but does not have formal training in blacksmithing, has never had classes, isn’t concerned with safety or form or anything one might expect to be a part of blacksmith training. He just likes to get outside and light fires and bang metal into interesting shapes. He made a dagger the other day, he says, basically by melting a piece of rebar and banging it into a shape resembling some sort of lethal object. He is all about the process of creating something, a process which lets him get out energy and aggression and all sorts of stuff that he is forced to hold inside during the school day and inside his house. At the end of the day, he can just melt his metal down and be ready to start again the next time the mood strikes him.

I’ve been working on some projects lately that have made me focus on the product, and the process has been something that I’ve had to rush and pinch back and otherwise force into uncomfortably small amounts of time in order to meet my deadlines. I haven’t had a day when I could just go out and bang my figurative metal into interesting shapes for a while, and I think I’m going to make that the focus of my post-holiday break. It seems like when I take the time to just play around with things, that’s where inspiration, and imagination and creativity just let loose---and often trickle into all the other parts of my life. I’m thinking of playing with some sculptures in snow and ice, something temporary, something where I can play all day with form, then come inside for a hot cuppa and think about nothing in particular but how interesting the morning has been…and just see where that takes me…

In the meantime, here's some interesting inspiration from british sculptor Andy Goldsworthy

Image: "Reconstructed Icicle"

More can be found here:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Tis the Season for Origami Irish Elk

As someone who has difficulty making those tricky end folds while wrapping presents, I am blown away by former physicist Robert Lang, who creates amazing origami figures out of single, uncut sheets of paper. Although those big Irish Elk antlers don't look nearly heavy enough to cause extinction when they are made out of paper...
If you feel like going insane with paper-folding envy, check this out:
His arthropods are particularly cool.

In love with A Personal Moon

I saw this photo of a light sculpture by Russian artists Leonid Tishkiv and Boris Bendikov over at one of my favorite blogs, "In the Labyrinth" by writer Midori Snyder I'm not usually drawn to sculpture or light installations, though something about these pieces connects with me and makes me think of growing up in the country, and those cold winter nights when I would have to go outside late in the evening to get wood for the woodstove. The woods around my home were so silent and cold, and the icy moon in the night sky seemed so close I hoped I could reach out and touch it. I love the magical qualities of their work. More of their pieces can be found here: , though sadly I don't speak enough Russian to understand the commentary about their process.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Farewell, Bleak November

I'm making our Christmas cards this year, and spent this morning working through some design ideas, finding text to accompany it, playing in paint and apparently, providing lots of amusement for the dog. It's dark and cold and rainy outside, and one of those days when we all just want to huddle around the stove and the teakettle. It would be a good day for soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and bread making and other wholesome, earthy things, but I think I'll take a little trip out into the woods, and see how the wilds are faring on this bleak November day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

underwater dreaming

These two works are from the pastel collections of Chris Augusta, an artist from Maine who I saw at a demonstration workshop a few years ago. I was amazed at the way he was able to capture fish and birds in a few colorful strokes of the pastel chalks. There is something incredibly vibrant and alive about his pieces that doesn't quite translate onto the computer screen. I've been hoping he would have an exhibition sometime soon so I can feel inspired-- I'm thinking of doing a series of paintings about a nearby bay called "above and below", where I look at the same area of the bay from both perspectives. Seems like a fun approach to take to painting in winter. PK and I always start to get re-energized about our art around this time of year--with the garden frozen over and some vacation time looming, perhaps we'll be able to get some work done inside the meantime, I'll look at to keep my motivation going...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

monday's harvest


Tonight I'm trying to write too many different papers and projects, when all I want to do is snuggle into a basket of warm laundry and sleep.

print "Darks with Lights" by Ann Eldridge

Friday, October 10, 2008

guilt by (American) association

“A language is not just vocabulary and grammar...It’s a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of a culture comes into the material world.”

This quote from Wade Davis resonates with me right now as I think about my students and the words they use to talk about their lives. In the same interview where I saw this quote (found here ) Davis also mentions that more than half of the world's 6,000 languages are no longer actively spoken, and likely to become extinct during the current generation. What does this mean for the future of our planet and our cultural diversity? I've always felt of two minds whenever travelling somewhere different from my own world--I've been fascinated by what I encounter, by the exchange of stories and ideas, by the incredible commonalities in the human spirit that made me able to have a conversation with a woman on the side of the road in a desert in northern Kenya, despite the fact that neither of us knew the other's words. But along with that fascination and the desire to explore all that other cultures have to offer was the bleak knowledge that ours was an exchange, and I brought my own American image into the desert with me, and left behind an impression, and material goods, that contribute to the homogenization of globalized culture. I'm trying to reconcile how I feel about this.

I think a lot about language as a way to visualize the changes in world cultures; English is the result of merging of Anglo-Saxon and French, Latin and Old Norse, all these other languages that adapted over time. It's changing still, and we discard as many words a year as we add. If I don't feel too sad about losing the cadences of Elizabethan English, why should I feel sad when this merging happens on a worldwide scale?

I've developed a little academic crush on Wade Davis this month as I read his works on the concept of the Ethnosphere. He approaches the topic with a better grasp of globalization than I have right now, and a little less sentimentality... some of his thoughts can be found in this really interesting keynote speech for the Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge

And his zombie book is good too.

the last sunflower...

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I was walking past a bus stop on campus the other day when I noticed a couple sitting together on the bench, having what appeared to be an animated conversation. The girl muttered something in a frosty tone, and by then I was close enough to hear the boy's reply.

"I told you I wasn't there. I remember because I was writing poetry that whole day."

Uh huh...I've heard that one before slick...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

creativity in the air...

For reasons that are too complicated to go into here, PK and I have 72 hours to strip off the wallpaper and re-paint a room in our house. Because of this, I've been staying up waaaay past my bedtime lately. The cool thing about that though, is that I actually got a chance to listen to this:

Creativity radio. Way cool....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

progress report...

I was lying in bed the other night, thinking about how this whole “creativity year” plan is going, when I decided to do a little informal polling of the household. PK had just started to fall asleep, but I find that repeatedly poking him in the shoulder blades usually takes care of that, and I proceeded to quiz him about how we have been doing this year in terms of our creative progress.

The Verdict? Not too shabby.

I had a few goals when we first started to talk about trying to structure our lives differently, and I feel like I’m making a lot of progress. I’m doing a much more creative job in which I write and challenge myself daily. Some day I might even get paid for it—but one step at a time! I’ve learned how to throw a pot, started playing around with photography, and put up a few bookshelves in an attempt to get more organized. I’ve started thinking more about approaching the world in a mindful way-walking softly and with heightened awareness. A good start, in all.

PK has had a good year too. He’s looking into selling his photographs. Ditto the pottery, which he has an amazing talent for. He invented an incredible card game, and has ventured into woodworking some more. All on the list of goals…

But most importantly, we have kept the dialog open about how to live more creative lives, and it hasn’t slipped under the floorboards and disappeared like so many other goals in life seem to do. We have a way to go—to learn more balance so work doesn’t eat away the hours we’d rather be painting, among other things.

And I’m sure PK would love to see me find a way to think about these things at more civilized hours. Baby steps…

Sunday, September 21, 2008

yet another rabbit hole...

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of reading as a way of creating alternate realities in student’s lives. What is the difference, I wonder, in the way our brains think about a memory associated with something we have actually done, compared to a memory of something we have read? Especially after a lot of time has passed and the "real" memories become misty...

I have had very intense (flow) experiences while reading books where my imagination has gone into overdrive, I’ve imagined noises, practically felt the rain of a hurricane, or smelled the burning fires of a city under siege. Once we are done the reading experience, or the real experience, all this is shuffled into our minds, filed away under different subheadings. What happens when those memories get mixed up? I have sometimes started to tell a story I heard from someone only to realize that it wasn’t the result of a conversation I had, but a book I read. Is that just early senility, or a sign that perhaps this memory thing is trickier than we thought?

There are a lot of layers to this line of thought I’ve been chasing lately (and, I’ll admit, even a few diagrams I had to draw to get things straight in my brain)…not sure where it will end up…but it's an interesting line of inquiry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

piracy is our only option...

After discovering that, due to the recent stock market volatility, our 401k plans will not in fact be able to fund a lengthy and comfortable retirement in the south seas, we decided to take matters into our own hands. PK and I, along with a wily band of fellow rogues, successfully conquered this small island off the coast of Maine. Arrr.

Friday, September 12, 2008

mindful snorting noises...

So, I just started a class in Ashtanga Yoga--I really like the approach of the studio I go to since it focuses so much on mindfulness and body awareness. I've done yoga for a number of years, but usually in a gym or rec center, and the focus has been more on physical movement rather than mental movement, so I'm fascinated with some of the philosophy behind ashtanga yoga. That said, I'm having a problem. Ujjayi. Ashtanga yoga synchronizes breath with movement, and my particular teacher wants us to breath in a specific style that when done properly sounds like it should be followed by the phrase "Luke, I am your Faaather". So what's my problem with Ujjayi? I can't keep a straight face. I've been trying all week, and the best I can muster involves a long gurgling noise followed by about 5 minutes of hysterical laughter. Every time.

Sometimes I'm not sure I should really be allowed to be an adult...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

kids today(or, good reasons to practice my pranayama techniques)

So PK and I are in the local Asian food market, picking up some nummy treats. "Oh look,"I say, "now they sell melon bars* by the box! K.** would be so excited"

A small boy with messy blond hair and an annoying smirk on his face suddenly appears in the aisle and says to me, with a sneer "yeah, except that's DURIAN fruit***, duh"

Um, WTF?

Now, two things go through my head. One, I know a stinking durian fruit popsicle when I see one, and I was definitely talking about melon bars thank-you-very-much, and TWO, what sort of child runs around Asian markets saying snotty things to strangers anyway? I, however, put my new yoga training to work, took some deep breaths and restrained from making any snarky comments at all. Instead, I fixed him with my "teacher look", grabbed my MELON bars, and calmly walked away. I feel so proud of myself for behaving...

*a frozen treat made from musk melon that will send you into spasms of happiness just from smelling it, not to mention actually eating one...

**my good friend who has recently moved to Nantucket, where, tragically, there are no melon bars.

***Not a melon, durian fruit has a scary spiny exterior, and is supposed to smell like rotting human flesh, but taste like vanilla custard. No thanks, durian popsicle makers...

And what kind of kid knows what the hell a durian fruit is, anyway?

Things that go bump in the night (or, a shout-out to nonlinear thinking...)

Scene: The apartment, 2am. All are asleep, dreaming of distant shores and candy and stuff.

From the kitchen come loud scuffling sounds, kind of like someone wrestling with a milk jug

WA-what the hell was that?
PK- That was the *!@*#!! cat. If my eyes would open I'd kick her A#@#@#>
WA-falls asleep

3:00am The noises resume at increased intervals, this time accompanied by intermittent meowing noises

WA- But that doesn't sound like the cat
PK-(mumbles incoherently)
WA- (gets up, noises stop and discovers the cat sleeping in the living room.)

Cat- (Opens one eye)- Stop looking at me!

WA to PK- I can't find anything.
PK- Every time I go she hides. I'm not getting up again.
WA-I don't think its the cat-she's not clever enough to pull off a fake nap so fast.
PL-this sucks.

The noises continue for hours.

4:45 am

PK- I hate the cat
WA- That's it. I've had it.
(she gets up, gets dressed and turns on all the lights. PK follows. No source of the noises is discovered. As WA searches the area of the Tupperware, PK makes a discovery in the blinds at the top of the kitchen window.)


This is not our cat. This is some other random cat who snuck into our house somehow. A cat extraction took place, during which PK was too busy laughing to document the event.

Sadly, this happened the night following a discussion I had in one of my classes about using non-linear thought in problem solving. As I was focused first on the idea that the cat was behind the noises, and second, that the noises could only be coming from the pile of Tupperware in the corner, PK was scanning the whole room for things that looked out of place. Score one point for the engineer for thinking on a higher plane!

Note to self: Maybe you should focus more on actually listening to what happens in classes instead of staring out the window and wondering if you'll have good waves for paddle surfing the next day. You never know when you might actually use this stuff...

Monday, September 1, 2008

au revoir, summer

Yesterday I hiked a small mountain up north, and noticed the first birches turning yellow all along the rivers. Right now they are scattered in the hillsides and swampy areas, but it won't be long before even our quiet little town bursts with color. This is my favorite time of year for so many reasons. I get overwhelmed with the beauty of the trees, and the frost and the way everything bends when the fall winds whip through. I love pulling my sweaters out of the closet and bundling up against the evening chill, and huddling before campfires before crawling into frost-touched tents. We still have several kayak trips planned, barring northerly hurricane trends, and I can't wait to be out on the islands, where the reds of the island oaks merge into the gray-green sea. This is a wild time of year, and with it I can feel my brain coming awake again after the lazy, hot days of summer. Last week alone I had 6 deep thoughts, and I think there might be more on the the very least I feel posts brewing in the back of my mind...

when you are too busy to weed...

you wind up with The Garden of Chaos... which means that when the cantalope are in season, it's like the Easter bunny was running a little low on gas money and had to pick up some work on the side. Consider this sneaky little melon...

Monday, August 25, 2008

salt in the air...

I spent the weekend playing in Nantucket...these pictures are out of focus, but I really like the painting-like effects...wish I knew exactly what button combination created it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

black and white

This past weekend I remembered how much fun it is to just tool around with the camera and take black and white photos. Most of them aren't keepers, but I got a chance to relax and just play with shades. I always seem to see an improvement in my sketching after exercising a bit with BW. It tunes me back in to the shades of the world, helps block out the colors and the confusion. It's also fun to do when the hot afternoon light bleaches out colors, but renders shadows sharp and dramatic. I was bracketing the photos, playing around with some boundaries, and for some reason I just like all the overexposed images much better, particularly of the beach rocks below. Trippy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Here comes the rain again....

Today the dog and I headed out for a walk in a local wildlife reserve. I had an inspiring moment and thought I'd take some pictures of a salt marsh I'd like to do some paintings of. Besides, it was sunny out, something which hadn't happened in many a day. Then these clouds came. At first I looked at them and, in total denial of reality, I said to the dog "I think they'll pass just north of us, let's go!" In fact, the movement I witnessed seems to have been some kind of clockwise spin, because as we entered the woods, the heavens opened up, and lo, did it pour rain down upon us!

And yet, I didn't turn around and head back to the car. Instead, I kept walking, even though the rain was so heavy I couldn't see; the water poured down my face in thick rivulets and steam rose off my clothing as the cold rain hit my warm flesh. Instead of cursing the fact that its rained every bloody day for weeks on end, usually just as I was about to go out and do something fun, I accepted the rain. The pup was already a few steps ahead of me in this, and was happily frolicking in the mud along the path. I didn't get my pictures of the salt marsh, but I did get a few wild, wind-whipped moments of storm--much better, I think.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

long summer, short on words...

I've spent the summer navigating the murky waters of both my creative self and the San Diego coast. These Leopard Sharks proved easier to find than creative inspiration this past month or so, but I have been newly motivated by the brief change in scenery and the onslaught of new sights and sounds...the month of August is mine to play with, and my projects include work for the upcoming school year, a creative writing piece and a series of sketches and photographs of local underwater life...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

arts and crafts

I've been absorbed in an interesting project this week- a friend gave me this beautiful stained glass wind chime for my birthday, but every time I looked at it, the row of thin copper chimes seemed misplaced- too orderly for a wildflower, I think. So I got hold of some copper sheets and made these tiny leaves that hang off a twisted wire stem. When the wind catches them they flutter like aspen leaves- a visual wind chime that I think more closely captures the spirit of the original piece.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I don't adapt well to change sometimes...

Especially when it means one of my favorite places on the web is shutting down...Endicott Studio, founded by writer and Editor Terri Windling, is(was?) a group of artists and writers devoted to study of Myth and Art in modern society. They will no longer be publishing the Journal of Mythic Arts, and will also be shutting down their blog. I'm so sad, since they are one of my favorite places to find new artists and writers- I've highlighted some of them here...they will be missed, and hopefully the individual members of the JoMA will be maintaining a web presence of their own...
The painting is by Terri Windling and is of Frejya, Norse goddess of love...the image is from her website at

Check out the JoMA archives at

Saturday, May 17, 2008

i need sunglasses for my camera

Notes to Self:

1) Remember to actually pack your camera in your backpack when you are going to be somewhere that you might want to take pictures. This will dramatically increase your trips to pictures ratio and give you something other than words to post on your blog.

2) When you do actually have your camera and are trying to use it while you are wearing sunglasses and are marvelling at the beautiful way the blue of the islands on the horizon blends and fades into the brown of the shore, you should remember that those are the colors in the land of Chilis, and not the actual real world around you.

That is all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The end is nigh

but in a good way....

I'm almost done with my finals-just a paper and an exam between me and sweet freedom. I'm actually pretty excited about the paper, because it's a prelude to a project I'm planning on working on this summer. My grandmother's aunt was a wonderful diary keeper, and I have diaries that cover about 60 years of her life, from the late 1800s on, every single impressive accomplishment, and one that absolutely fascinates me. They are fragile leather bound books often smaller than an index card with a page a day...her tiny spider writing is faded and wispy, sometimes it's hard to make out the words. Sometimes I wish there was more room per page, so she could have written more than a hint of what happened in her day.

I know there is a book in there job this summer is to make the fist step towards finding out what that story is, and how I want to progress with it. I feel energized thinking about this project, and can't wait to finish up my loose ends to get on with the next big thing...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

it's finals week

and I feel like this...

(these were once my favorite pajamas..until one winter when they fell out of the laundry basket and landed in the parking lot of my old apartment building, where they were run over by my neighbor approximately 5000 times. I wondered at their disappearance for months...then the spring thaw came and this is the horror that awaited me)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Can't buy me artistic vision

I came across this article "Five Gadgets that Make You Seem Artistic"
on MSN, and found myself alternating between feeling highly irritated with and completely ambivalent about the human species. While the article was written slightly tongue-in-cheek, the underlying attitude, that you can purchase the right expensive pieces of equipment and "become" an artist, rubbed me the wrong way. There's nothing wrong with using gadgets like this to release your inner creative self. Not everyone feels like they are ready to draw or paint, and in my opinion, creative expression comes in many forms. BUT, how many people won't get the snarky undertone and will instead buy into the idea that they can purchase creativity? Aren't things like this the first step (or perhaps the 100th) towards a society where even creative expression is bland, cookie cutter, and meaningless?

Why do we think we can just buy something and magically transform ourselves into someone else? Nothing good can come of this...

Raining, again...must be spring

The rain is coming down in thick gray sheets this morning, and I've exchanged moving things around in the garden for sitting inside with a book and the cat. I have a stack of books waiting for me next week when the semester ends, and big plans for doing some nature journaling and plein air painting in the nearby salt marshes.

This spotted turtle picture is by David Carroll, naturalist/illustrator and recent recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, . I have a print by him of a spotted salamander on my study walls, and as it rains today I keep thinking of all the little creatures about to try and cross the road as part of some perilous rite of passage. When it rains near my parents' house the little red efts come out in droves, to get to the other side where, I suppose, the grass is always greener and the ponds have tastier weeds. Isn't that the way of it?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

twelve dancing princesses

This book-cut sculpture by Su Blackwell is amazing...even though I cringe a little at the thought of slicing into the pages of a book with anything but my mind. I'm always in awe of people who can creatively transform everyday objects this way. Plus, The Twelve Dancing Princesses was always one of my favorite fairy tales... More of her sculptures can be found at and a more eloquent tribute to her work, and books in general, can be found here:

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about the types of creative acts I've been performing lately and how contrary my approach has been to each different kind . First, I have always been a writer at heart. I love to play with words to get certain responses from my readers. This is a very delicate craft, and often requires many re-writes; adding or deleting a single words can change the entire direction a story goes, or elicit an entirely different reaction from a reader. It's a controlled sort of art. The piece is not finished until I declare it so, and I am the one who finalizes each sentence. This may not be the best approach, and perhaps its what holds me back from being more productive, but it is what it is...right now at least.

The other type of art is what I've been working on most lately. I've been gravitating towards art that involves loss of control at some stage of the process. Gardening, watercolor painting, pottery--all involve the artist setting the stage for the final piece, then backing away and watching what forms. In our garden there is one corner where I created a nice cutting garden---but this spring the bergamot and primroses have spread like crazy, and a few of the cutting flowers have succumbed to winter's chill. It's a totally different place from last year, and I can choose to either spend money and time to wrestle it back to what I originally wanted it to be, or watch and see what this new garden becomes as the season progresses.

With pottery, I created forms and dipped them in glazes, but during the firing process the clay shrunk, the glazes spread and interacted with one another, and what came out looks very different from what I thought it would be--not bad, just unexpected. And the same thing happens every time I pick up my watercolors. The pigment drips and slides across the page in barely controlled chaos, sometimes producing magical results, sometimes puddling into a muddy mix.

Somehow I'm becoming more comfortable with all this chaos in my art. I think I have to be, or I will be unhappy with anything I produce. Just as the act of creating it takes on an increased importance in my life, the act of appreciating the unexpected must also become something sacred. So I'll be doing minimal restructuring in the cutting garden this year. I'm going to go with the flow and add in a hummingbird feeder...and just see what happens...

Raindrops on Lady's Mantle

Thursday, April 24, 2008

a poem in shades of green

There are small spaces in our garden where the plants grow together in such perfect synchronicity that they seem like they have been there forever. When I look at the creeping thyme and hens and chickens growing together in our rock garden, I have the same feeling I get when I complete a painting just the way I like it, or when I find just the right words to describe something in my writing. I like to think of these tiny spaces as living poems, and though the photograph doesn't come close to capturing the essence of this garden space, I feel like these are the kinds of things I'm looking for, these tiny spaces and moments in life where I feel completely in tune with my surroundings, however small.

An almost school-free day

I've been having a pretty stressful semester dealing with a lot of bureaucratic hurdles that have required a great deal of juggling and diplomacy between two departments, and between this and my crazy schedule, I've had a lot of long, frustrating days with very little down time. So with one of my internships not happening today because of school vacation week, I proclaimed an almost school-free day and have been working in the garden all morning. (Its an almost day because I couldn't manage to break away from checking my e-mail in case a student wrote me or a sudden light appeared at the end of the bureaucratic tunnel). Here are some of the fruits of my (and PK's) labors... There's nothing like the sight of newly sprouting asparagus and johnny jump-ups to make me immediately feel more relaxed...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This spring PK and I have been taking a pottery class. We do this from time to time, not pottery, but art classes. It's a great way to tune out the world, relax and set aside one evening a week when we are forced to slow down, relax and just feel clay slip through our fingers. I wish I had pictures from the class-but sadly, the camera would have suffered the same clay-splattered fate as all our clothing and second-best towels. I had never tried to throw a pot before, and it turned out to be quite difficult, but in a fun, challenge yourself kind of way. Tonight I pulled my very first pot from the kiln...and it was a perfect fit for the cyclamen that bloomed all winter long.