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.