Friday, September 23, 2011

A Wet and Mushroomy Autumn Equinox

"Rain", watercolor on paper, 2010

Days slip through my fingers, soggy with rain, spilling one into the next like
overfilled buckets. I can't catch them or mold them into being reasonably functional
vessels of time, they seem to expand or contract easily and not at my command. 
I hear myself using the word "challenged" to describe my current state of being, 
and feel comforted with the knowing that it takes an earthquake to build a mountain. 
Not that I am hoping for a new mountain to form, or that I want another earthquake
(we've had tornados, a hurricane, and an earthquake already this summer), but I trust 
that the skills and strategies I am using to move me through the challenges will be 
useful additions to my toolbox. 

With the hurricane came flooding, roads washed away and houses floated downriver. 
Our town was spared anything too horrible, we lost a few roads and the river ran fast 
and brown and high for many days. 

Rain is so often a gift to the late summer garden, but the plants are bent down flat, 
or leaning sideways, or succumbing to mildews and root rot. They seem a perfect 
reflection of how I have been dancing through life lately, full of hope, reaching 
towards the sun on dry days, but laid flat the next by yet another tropical deluge. 
The constant wet has caused an extraordinary bloom of mushrooms and fungi, 
delighting the squirrels who perch in trees and nibble mushroom caps like pizza. 

Each day a new kind or color emerges from the forest floor, my friend, Boo, found 
these amazing green mushrooms, have you ever seen these?

Emerald mushrooms - photo Alexandra "Boo" Cherau

In just a small bit of the moss garden, quite a variety appeared one day. 

A toad lily graces the woodland garden, 
but I've missed so many of its stories as my 
woodland listening chair is too wet to perch on. 

The mushrooms and constant rains has meant high mold spores in the air and mildew smells in the house to which I am quite allergic. I've been cleaning, clearing, and
organizing to find the bit of cloth that turned green or a table leg with white spots 
forming. Ugh, THIS is one source of my challenge of late. I do see the gifts however, 
as there is nothing quite as wonderful as cleaning every surface of the house to
welcome in the new season. I am impatient for cool days and wood fires to dry me 
and the house out. 

After a whole weekend of cleaning, I decided I must finally make the lamp the 
dark corner of the kitchen was dreaming of. 

I didn't think I had done much art as I sat down to write this post, but I found 
that I have been stealing moments to scribble in a sketchbook, and these have added 
up to a few drawings to share. Below is an idea for a RavenWood sign for the end of 
the road - the raven in the rectangle - another drawing took shape behind it.

A few pages of tree forms:

 When I journey deep down inside myself, I find the root people. Always, in the 
dark places, they look out and remind me. What, exactly they say is nothing 
translatable in words. Their message is a slap of thunder in the middle of the night, 
or a shooting star, or the owl that awoke me last night in the tree right outside. 

They invite me to slip into a cool pond on a full moon night and breathe silver-blue 
light with frogs. Lately I have wanted to steal away in the night, dig down under 
the big hemlock and find the entrance to the root-world. I imagine a great council
of beings dreaming there around the fire, beating drums and singing the earth around 
the sun. Luckily I have my magic pen that can take me there in an instant, for I haven't quite found the right digging stick to get me there for real. 

Oh, and lastly, the chipmunk that Pasha brought inside today just scurried under 
my feet, answering my question of whether s/he had escaped while the door was 
open all day.... what now? 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Water People

"Air & Water", 8x8", oil on panel, 1993

Years ago the sea was my world. Images were born from me of light on water, 
the rhythm of waves and thick, ocean fog. In my work, I imagined myself far 
offshore, navigating the changing sea, searching - on a journey to home. Now, 
amidst the sweeping branches of the hemlocks, I can feel that immense blueness 
in the center of my soul, for once you are a water person, you remain one always. 

We set out on our family's last voyage on the Nobska Lady, the boat that has 
carried us on ocean adventures for more than thirty years. The clouds grew out 
of the shore like towering trees, a light wind blew and the sky promised afternoon clearing. 

Since I was a child, I was spirited away on voyages long and short, sometimes 
jealous that my older sister could stay at home if she chose. I now know that 
wild adventures on the sea stitches folks together with the strength of waxed 
linen, and if there should be a tear, the splicing tool is close at hand. 

I'm not sure I always understood the intensity of many situations we found ourselves 
in, but I learned unwavering trust in my father's skill as a navigator and captain. 
I remember many a journey through pea soup fog, sitting on the bow, blowing 
the horn. A deeply etched memory is the time when we found ourselves in the 
midst of a naval convoy, huge gray hulls emerging like silent monsters from the fog. Stationed as I was on the bow, blowing my little horn, I was in charge of spotting 
them and alerting the captain. On a boat when calm sailing turns stormy or foggy or mysterious - as it did when dark hull after dark hull emerged in our path - its all 
hands on deck no matter the age. 

On that same cruise, I saw my first, enormous shark. It was off in the distance, 
basking in the sun close to the surface. When we approached, it slowly sank beneath 
the boat and emerged on the other side. I was transfixed, leaning over the side to 
get a better look, my mother grabbing my belt loops, holding tight a shrieking a bit. 

This last overnight was to Hadley Harbor on the small island on Naushon. Hadley
holds stories from my life from as long as I can remember. On the way there, we
passed by Woods Hole, where I spent most of my childhood. If you follow the link
and click on the photo, you will see a long, low roof of the house my grandfather 
built next to the light house. 

Many a day was spent climbing around on the rip wrapping below the 
lighthouse, resulting in an almost daily stubbed and re-stubbed toe. 

We anchored in the outer harbor, the day having shifted to warm and sunny, 
but with wonderful clouds still clinging to the shore. 

 Mom on lunch duty.... 

You might think that dinner on a boat would be a simple thing, but not on the 
Nobska Lady. Not only is my father a popular crew to invite on long overnight 
journeys to Maine for his navigation skills and willingness to stay up all night, 
but also cause he's an amazing chef. Luckily today the seagulls let us eat our 
steak. Once or twice over the years, while grilling off the stern, dinner was 
lost to a clever, swooping bird. 

Glistening, late afternoon light melted into night
and a candle was lit to light the deck.  

Tucked into our bunks in the cabin, I read aloud from "The Secret Garden", 
by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book, read aloud over several of our voyages, 
twines around our memories of this boat like a flowering vine. Our story of this 
story is one of my favorites... 

One evening on the Nobska Lady, just before bedtime, the Captain 
and his wife were readying their sleeping bags. It was the time when 
the Captain's wife usually read aloudOn the last voyage, she had been 
reading "The Secret Garden", especially for the youngest member of 
the crew. As it was a somewhat longish book, the Captain's wife hadn't 
finished and had stowed the book away for the next time the youngest 
mate was aboard. The young mate had not signed on this voyage, so it 
was just the Captain and his wife. Once the beds were prepared, the Captain's 
wife climbed in and began to read her adult book by the soft glow of lantern 
light. In his bunk, tucked under the navigation station, the Captain seemed restless, 
and finally asked his wife if she might read the next chapter of "The Secret Garden". 
She replied that the young mate was not aboard, so she didn't think she should.
The Captain reasoned that she could always read the chapter again, the next 
time the whole crew was aboard. So the Captain's wife put down her book, 
and read another installment of "The Secret Garden", just for the two of them.
(He WAS the Captain, after all)

The journey back offered a stiff wind and respectable waves, and I, the youngest 
member of the crew, was in my element - happy, too, to see my father pass 
this well-loved boat on to friends of mine who are just beginning their life of 
sailing, and, who my father aptly said of them - "they are water people now".