Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sound Tracking in the Forest

We've had a bit of rain.... and mornings 
with magical mists while I sit drinking 
coffee in the moss garden. 

The same brown mossy hill I photographed in an earlier 
post bejeweled after a rainy night. Today it is back 
to brown, but more rain is expected and this 
hill knows how to sing exuberant songs of green
after a good shower. 

Gentle ferns do a lovely dance with the wind, 
swaying back and forth and dipping into the birdbath, 
kissing the stone bird. Not many birds come to this 
little bath, but the chipmunks who live in the stump
behind it drink here in the morning before Pasha 
is out and about. 

I do love balancing stones in stacks around the gardens, 
though they always lose their little top ones when 
those same chipmunks perch there and eat acorns. 

Though we really could use a week of rain, I have 
been enjoying being outside in warm, dry 
weather. Needing to write on the computer 
today, I had the grand idea of setting up outside 
in the moss garden. It has been such a sanctuary 
this summer and mosquito free. Dappled sunshine all day 
and cool with gentle afternoon breezes. 

Strange and wonderful this world of technology, 
that I could bring my computer outside and still 
check email listening to the Baroque iTunes
channel thanks to invisible waves passing through
my router.... wonder if the sound inaudible to me
 is too much for the dragonflies... 

"Storm at Dusk", watercolor 2009

On Sunday evening I was called out by frog songs and
the just past full moon. Sometimes at night, 
in the midst of doing evening things like 
reading or listening to music, I suddenly silence 
the artificial noises and move outside into the
sounds of frogs or owls or coyotes, 
or light rain on the 
metal roof. 

quick forest sketch

Sometimes the forest sounds are just so...
so soothing and wild that I am reminded of 
  the myriad of creatures living here as they 
sing their night songs. Vast spaces
feel measurable when filled with the far-off call 
of a coyote. Last night I could track the 
path of one as it moved around the forest, 
calling, calling as it traveled. A few 
nights before I heard the clattering 
of a branch as something lighted on it. 
A moment later, as I climbed into bed, 
the owl in a tree just eight feet from 
my window began calling to its mate.
So close I could hear slight resonances 
and nuances in her call that would be 
lost at a distance. Off in the forest, 
just at the edge of my hearing, 
a faint response.  

another drawing from my youth, 
"HawK" - age 18 or so

Day sounds in the forest are often quite 
shrill due to the resident ravens. 
If you've never heard them, they are 
amazingly diverse vocalists. Sometimes
sounding like other corvids - crows mostly- 
but a bit more throaty, and other times 
creating a variety of clicks and shrieks 
that find me shaking my head or laughing. 

three night bugs on a branch

As I sit here, a sweet buzzing of crickets fills 
the night, a clear marking of the seasons 
flowing toward late summer. July is frog songs,
August crickets. The buzz invites me to shrink
and travel the spaces between grasses, 
imagining the night view of a bug. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teasel Time in the Garden!

Teasel - quick sketch

When the teasel blooms, its quite a spectacle!
I love the spike patterns and the strange way it 
 blooms. Sometimes it starts from the center, 
other times from the top as this one... 
what a truly amazing plant to witness - from 
dangerous to downright over the top fancy in a few days!

Weed drawing from yesterday...

Balance is a good thing.... I've been 
balancing my list of art-biz tasks with
blocks of time in the studio. Some of 
the urgency around deadlines is eased, so, 
finding balance is easier. At present 
I'm mostly exploring, playing and settling
in after bringing so much old work 
back from my parents' house that 
needed to find places to live in my 
small space. 

When work is happening.... piles of paper and bits 
of inspiration fill my work table.

Two older sketches exploring natural patterns. 

I cleaned out the studio loft 
that housed nothing but empty moving 
boxes... they seemed precious at the time, 
but since I don't plan on moving,  
better to have my old work 
stored nicely somewhere. I need to 
build some shelving to house the 
HUNDREDS of old sketchbooks from 
Greece and piles of drawings my 
my parents so carefully saved.  
I think I was probably 10 or 11 when I did this one below! 

click to enlarge and read the funny signs!

This is a self-portrait from sometime 
in the 1980's - I 
KNOW my mother must have 
said it was sooo unflattering!
Below is one of my first 
paintings from Samos, Greece. 
Goats in Agios Konstantinos where I
studied art in a small studio program and 
fell in love with the land and began  
eight years of living there part-time. 
"Goats" from Summer 1987.

Below is a small diptych from graduate school, 
sometime in 1993, I think. I was playing 
with using the grain of the wood panel
as part of the image. I used this technique 
a lot in later paintings if I could find interesting 
panels. I'm still interested in this idea and want 
to explore it again. Not the best shot of it, 
but you get the idea. 

I visited my parents twice in the past few weeks, 
to finally get to the overwhelming task of 
clearing out a huge wall of work I had 
stored there. They are moving, so, finally 
I had to go do it. It was actually kind of 
entertaining to re-visit all my old images. 
My father and I laughed at some really bad stuff,
and I had a kind of semi-private retrospective 
exhibition in the basement. 
I purged quite a bit, but couldn't let go of 
sketchbooks. Some of the ones from Greece
are wonderful to look back at. I'll share some 
images from there sometime. 

My father took two trailer loads of old paintings, 
drawings, and sculpture to the dump - some awful work and
some damaged. I took carloads of large paintings, sketchbooks
and portfolios back home with me each time. 
Thank goodness for the studio loft!

someone's stone stack in the river

On the weather situation, we still have had very 
little rain. Thunderstorms seem to skirt around 
here many afternoons, but very few have 
come to the forest. Its been hot, which means
I've been swimming at the river. 
I can't quite make it home without a stone or two. 

Feeling an abundance of gratitude today while strolling 
through the garden. There is something so profoundly 
healing in sharing space with an exuberance 
of flowers and the strangely blooming teasel. 
Buzzes and flights of pollinators 
doing their thing all day is a healing thing. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Waiting For Rain....

"Marsh Pines", watercolor, 2008

Dark clouds slink by today - we are 
waiting for rain. Its been over three weeks since we 
have had a soaking storm.  Last summer, 
we had two months straight of pouring, 
soaking, monsoons. It was miserable. This summer, 
the land is parched, and I am watering more than
I ever have before. With heavy clay soil, 
I almost never water, or rather, until this year.
The other night, the mosses sang themselves
green in celebration of a thunderstorm, 
but today, they are back to brown, 
and I am wandering about on my 
mid-day garden stroll, hose in hand, 
making sure that nothing dies while 
 waiting for the rain that is 
suppose to come. 

brown mosses waiting for rain

The resiliency of the plants is truly something. 
The mosses look dead, but one rain 
and they are vibrant and reaching and
as lush as a jungle canopy. Though the lack of
rain is hard on the plants, I can handle this 
better than the monsoons of last 
summer - as long as my well keeps flowing 
and the farms keep harvesting.... 

Still working my way through a list of art-business 
tasks, I feel myself a stranger to the studio, 
and have written ORGANIZE STUDIO on my
calendar for tomorrow. Having cleared 
years of paintings and portfolios from 
my parents' basement in preparation
for their move, I have piles of old 
work to sort and store. Getting back 
into the studio, even to organize is a
way to re-connect and feel my work again.

"Cloud Shadow", watercolor, 2008

I know myself as a cyclical creator, 
and with all the varied things I do, 
I MUST be ok with this. Right now, 
I am clearing the fields, 
planting the seeds, 
organizing the tools, 
gathering my tribe. 

And until I begin again - fully - in the studio, 
I grow purple petunias that burst in abundance 
from the window boxes, and find the perfect, 
yellow-green pot for peach-colored blooms. 
I eat my meals at one of the garden tables, 
and look through the camera lens at the 
structures, colors and patterns of 
flowers, gathering information 
for my fall classes, and understanding the 
work of Georgia O'Keefe more and more.


Inside a petunia, a cathedral with stained glass, 
and the uncurling Queen Anne's Lace reveals 
its fractal form.

What was a bed of purple lupine gives way to a 
tangle of fleabane, bee balm and black-eyed susan. 

Year after year I intend to do something more 
orderly with this garden bed. Though it never 
seems to get done. And today, while wondering 
if that rain will ever come, I am in loving appreciation
of the native plants that put up with just about 
anything and fill in the holes with their 
wild abundance. 

Its their refusal to be orderly that I love, I realize, 
and that I can depend on them, even 
in a drought. Wild and made for this 
particular place.