Allium collapse

The first couple hours of the morning were cool and clear, the calm before this next wave of severe weather moves into our neck of the woods. They just issued another tornado watch.

These pansies were planted for Pat’s birthday in March by Daniel Follansbee. They were moved out of the main flower pots when the warmer weather kicked in…but tossing them in the shady side of the arbor beds has given them an extended life and they were a much welcomed bright spot knowing that I was facing the task of un-planting what the dreaded Allium leaf miner had destroyed.

Every single leek, onion and garlic…over 400 plants which I had so lovingly, and surprisingly successfully, raised from seed this winter have been attacked. They were planted in eight different beds. Even the ones which were grown in the strawbales, far from any of the soil which was infected with the creatures for the past two years. (see that last picture to show the wonderful root structure flourishing in the straw bale bunches in spite of the infested bulbs above) EVEN the ones that I kept under the cover of netting and fleece.

So I decided to yank them in the hopes that this batch may be considered a “catch” crop. The larvae were visible in 100% of the plants, some having reached pupae stage, but all still contained in the bulbs and stems of the plants. They are now corralled and sealed into a plastic trash bag. No way I could ever get them all, but maybe…maybe this will make a dent in the population.

I am going to try one more experiment. One of my garden websites was having a sale on the last of  this year’s onion and leek seedlings. So I purchased someone elses’
successful germinating alliums and am going to try and plant them in virgin soil and keep them undercover for their entire growing season. This predator insect seems to have two cycles per year. Another wave is coming. Sounds like my zombie plant game.

In the pics below you can see a similar experiment begun in the RS bed.

The ground beneath all the hay I tossed here back in January was originally lawn. Now it is mud as the hay mulch has smothered the grass growth nicely and begun to decompose. But it will need years of organic matter decomposing to change the composition of that soil so I am testing a primitive solution to grow stuff now.

On either side of the new squash tunnel, ( netting goes over it next time Kory is here), I have placed boxes, open both at the bottom and the top on top of the ground and pulled away the hay to expose soil. Then I added store bought compost, around 6 inches, inside the boxes and am planting directly in these. Idea being that roots have access to the soil below but enough nutrients to assist in growth filtering down into that soil. Everything, cardboard and compost will breakdown over the season and begin to amend the topsoil, but hopefully provided enough fertility to get a crop this year.

I am not completely satisfied that my bunnies will be deterred by the fencing we put up so I threw the netted tunnels over the young plants for added protection.

The plan I am formulating for the new onion seedlings arriving soon is to make up a similar area in the RS bed with boxes and grow bags and compost and then keep them completely covered with netting and or fleece for the entire season. If the flying leaf miners cannot get inside to lay their larvae then…well…theoretically no damage.

If this works then I will be forearmed and have all winter to prepare for next season.

Until then, the little bags of color…

and the first snow pea pods arriving…

are keeping my happy place…happy.

Stay safe out there this week and please take the severe weather warnings seriously.

 

 

 

 


Circles…

‘Twas a lovely surprise a few weeks back, to receive…by way of a thank you of sorts…a package from Matthew Stackpole. He, by way of Martha’s Vineyard and Mystic Connecticut, and a lifetime of service to both seafaring villages and museums and maritime history everywhere.

He had sent me a copy of the book, The Charles E. Morgan – The Last Wooden Whaleship, written by his father Edouard A. Stackpole. It’s a lively in depth history of the ship and her adventures published in 1967. I’m only part way through and it has me hooked. Great sky chair reading. Thank you so much Matthew.

Matthew and his brother had the run of the Morgan when their father was at the helm of the Mystic Seaport Museum.

So he had fond memories to share when looking at the paintings I had done from the museum and the ship for last years’ Granary Gallery Show.

Then yesterday’s mail arrives and here, in the American Art Collector Magazine article by John O’Hern about maritime art, is that same ship circling back…

I just love it when that happens.

A special thank you to John, as ever.

It takes a village and we have some fine fine humans helping to row our boat.

 


Progress Report…flora

And a fine good morning to you all from the studio.
Yes, it’s been a while since I checked in here on the blog thingy…but it’s SPRING…and I’ve been working overtime both at the easel and…in the garden.

As this life flies by, I have been paying more attention to slowing down.

My vow to spend more time in the sky chair,
which swung empty on its swivel hook for most of last year,
and to spend more time with my wife,
coming home in time for Jeopardy most of the winter,
and to let the brushes flow at their own pace,
surprising myself discovering new ways to say old truths…
and grabbing all the spare minutes in between to play…in the garden.

We have survived the major tree removal project and the sky has opened up for sunshine to reach some areas of the garden for the first time in a hundred years. I am seeing some changes already, especially in the greenhouse corner of the studio yard. Here then is a tour of the very much “working” progress.

Got to start with a glam shot of my favorite day of every year…the opening blossoms of our Chilmark beach rose…with the extra shot of sunshine she will be receiving now we should be treated to quite a show.

Then, the welcome to my garden view…

Wood chips provided by those dead trees.

This corner is tremendously satisfying as the new bed is brimming with salad greens, and beets, carrots, onions and kale coming along. I confess that I have no idea what that tall green veg is…yes I labeled the seedlings but that label read Kale. It looks more like a broccoli thing. I’ll get a better pic and ask for ID help.

Then a few steps further along we have the splendid newly refurbished arbor bed. The traditional herb garden has now been annexed with the greenhouse bed which I planted yesterday with a whole bunch of seedlings that I actually managed to raise to more than the first two leaf stage.

Then we get serious, and very messy.

The spinach bed, planted way back in March, has been steadily producing but the cover came off pronto when it started to bolt way too early. That thin bed on the right had held a crop of winter carrots which I planted way too late. They were producing full heads of greens but the roots were being chomped by some creature so I yanked them. If I can find a space between raindrops today I’m going to add a layer of new compost and plant edamame there.

The bed beyond, with the two pea towers, is an overachiever. The garlic planted there last fall has been, and will remain, covered in the hopes of deterring the dreaded alium leaf miner. Everything else is shooting up. A local garden guru said this has been an old fashioned spring for us. I really feel that vibe. A gradual climbing in temps, increase in rainfall with some good days of sun and no deep frosts. We have turned that corner now and it is wonderful to put the ice trackers away.

Some big progress in the back forty…

We got this new bed, which I am dubbing the Very Large Array,  almost finished. Not sure where I’m gonna find the dirt to fill her up but I can hear the carrots and parsnips whispering yes.

And now for Ruth…

This experiment may not look like much at the moment but it’s really fun.
While waiting for warmer temps to attempt some planting inside this bed, I threw all sorts of things in the outside bales. Extra broccolini seedlings (I won’t grow that next year…lots of time and space taking flats for Zero return. (some seen here below)

The leeks, and the onions which I nurtured in February… are thrilled to have a home and are soldiering up the perimeter like they were born for the job. Some carrots, kale and extra sage are in there as well as sunflowers and climbers for the Ruth Stout Memorial Archway.

But Potato Row is the star.

All varieties are up now. You can see here how the back wall of hay bales is collapsing into the potatoes. They are on the uphill side of the sloping yard so they have to fight gravity as well as decomposition. I am going to let them do what they think is best and hope that the veg planted in them will overcome the drooping attitude.

There are some persistent weeds coming through the hay all over the bed. I will be using the mountain of wood chips to fill in some walking pathways in here and all over the rest of the yard. It can just be seen out there beyond the fence…which is part of the problem… I need Kory’s help for that but we’ll get her done.

Elsewhere on the estate…

The blueberry bed is thriving.

The much neglected far corner has received a facelift incorporating some Ruth Stout hay mulching with shredded hardwood to tamp down the thready weeds and help establish a new blackberry bed. I saved some Soloman Seal from beneath the pin oak which was taken down at the log cabin and it seems to be quite happy in it’s new home around the maple tree.

And then we swing back down to the easel window, along the rose bed…

A clever shot of the view which the birds and squirrels have of the artiste…from without…

and her view from within…

Some re-positioned birdhouses…

And David’s gazing ball…

and the apprentice telling me that’s enough…get back to work.

She’s right. It’s time to get back to my day job.

I’m having just as much fun inside…working on a new series of a very old house on the Vineyard. We will check in on that a bit later.

Thanks for slowing down with me for a bit today.

Now go get your hands dirty.

H

 

 

 


Ten Year Challenge

Today this sweet loyal generous companion bodyguard and all around champion of our hearts…is 10 years old !!!

That is a VERY special birthday for a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Our little Finnegan is a giver of love.
To everyone she meets.

A wise soul
a beautiful presence
part healer
come jester
my rugged apprentice
our tender minder
and bestest of pals.

Dear Dear Finn…we love you too.

I’ll take this ten year challenge and then some…


The big hay day

Well dear readers…

Today was the day.
After a couple read throughs of her books,


and heading down a few you tube rabbit holes…
and waiting for the weather to thaw…

Today Kory and I created our very own Ruth Stout garden bed.

Complete with a Ruth Stout memorial archway…

With the ground thoroughly frozen at the start of the day,
and mother nature shining a record breaking 65 degrees down upon us by mid-afternoon,
everyone was in high spirits to be spending a February day in t-shirts.

I laid out some cardboard and newspaper to define a border
and the stories in the Vineyard Gazette will be whispering to vegetables for years to come.

 

Let the deliveries begin…

After an early morning spent bearing witness for an immigration trial at the jail, my human rights hero, joined us to help supervise…

And one of the best parts of the day was watching how much fun Finn had playing in the hay. I didn’t get a good picture but she had such a big smile on her face…as if this fluffy soft bed was just a big gift for her.

 

Early on Kory could see that the ground was thawing rapidly so he made a lovely path…

By lunchtime we had almost two thirds completed.

Ruth recommended a good 8″ of mulch. She used spoiled hay because it was cheap since the farmers couldn’t feed it to their animals. After trying to find a ready source of that around here I decided, as you will recall from my last post, to use the regular bales available at our local supplier…thank you again Homer.

This chronicle is not meant as a how-to, interested gardeners will get much more pleasure out of reading Ruth’s own words of wisdom. I CAN report that there has already been much eyebrow raising, and not a little “mansplaining” from those who have heard of my plan.

Ruth had much to say about that…

“Naturally the neighboring farmers at first laughed at me; for a few years they doted on stopping in in the spring to ask if I didn’t want some plowing done. But, little by little, they were impressed by my results, and when they finally had to admit that the constantly rotting mulch of leaves and hay was marvelously enriching my soil, they didn’t tease me anymore. On the contrary, they would stop by to “have one more look” before finally deciding to give up plowing and spading and to mulch their own gardens.”

Originally I had planned to use straw bales as a border, which would provide some structure to run wire rabbit fencing all the way around and then available, directly upon disintegrating, to be tossed onto the mulching bed.

But we had much more hay than we needed to start out with so Kory used hay bales along the back edge and Him and Herself fetched another couple truckloads of straw to line the other sides. The straw is cheaper and won’t break down as fast as the hay, but all of it, as I repeat myself, will eventually be tossed onto the bed to provide the continuous mulching required to build the soil.

Fun fact…In the past years, when I was experimenting with strawbale gardening, it was quickly discovered that a fully grown studio rabbit is just the right height to reach up and nibble the tenders growing at the top of a bale.
A bit of wire fencing was enough to decide them that there were other delicacies requiring much less work elsewhere in my yard…and several of them have been quite happy enough with that arrangement to pose for me in between noshes…

Ahem…

Some tossing techniques…

It was simply a glorious day to be outside making those January dreams come alive..

Even though our entire yard is on a sloping angle, this section of the studio yard is full of underground springs and is a devil to mow because it’s a swamp on all but the driest days. One of the benefits of this mulching method is that there should no watering needed. Ruth described setting out a small lawn sprinkler only to give seeds a head start.

Time will tell if the mulch will be happy as happy as the rabbits with this arrangement.

By three o’clock we had finished the large bed, hay mulched a nearby flower bed as an experiment, put straw down between all the raised beds to make muddy spring passage a bit easier, in addition to Kory tackling all of the chores Miss Pat had on her to-do list.

The finished bed…

Kory replenished the firewood stack on the log cabin porch, and now we can sit back with our feet up in front of the fire and wait for winter to rain and snow on this creation and for all those lovely earthworms and critters to wiggle their way into Finn’s fluffy bed.

I figure we made a loosely consistent 18″ or so blanket of hay and built a 15 x 50 foot bed.

I also figure there are more of these warm weather breaks ahead, and I have a large pile of leaves which we can chop up a bit with the lawn mower and toss on the RS bed (that pile is frozen now). And from now on all of the garden waste and grass clippings will go on there as well.

I’ll still keep the compost piles going. We had great success last season sifting many wheel barrows of that home grown gold. The existing raised beds were put to bed with that gold in the fall so should welcome rotations of deeper root crops this year, and most of the leafy greens and such.

Our next project is to replace one of the first raised beds I built, the bottom boards are rotting away. So it will be just the place for a keyhole garden. Oh yes, I am. I’ve designed it to use the same galvanized corrugated aluminum which we used to repair the walls of the asparagus bed last year. With some tweaking and design updates I’m hoping to improve on our first attempts and make a more permanent structure that can double as a cold frame for winter greens. Stay tuned for more on that.

Expectations for the RS bed this year are low because of the time it will take to break all that hay down and begin to build a nutrient rich soil. Others who have tried this report it took a year or more to begin to have soil that would support deeper root crops. OK, so I will be planting potatoes. Ruth just pulls back her mulch and throws them directly on the ground and piles the hay back on top. Pretty much the way I’ve been growing them for a couple years so there ya go.

Gonna also try onions and leeks, brussel sprouts and kale, shell peas and edamame, and a big section of squash. I sow all the seeds I can fit in the studio and the greenhouse so I may start most of the RS bed plants by pulling back the mulch and adding a couple of inches of composted manure and peat before planting the seedlings.

And don’t forget that strawbale border can be planted in as well. Maybe with marigolds and nasturtiums with onions and turnips in between.
And a cascade of morning glories for the memorial arch.

Ahhh, what an absolute bliss of a gift this day was.

Thank you Kory for all that you do for us.
These two old ladies are so grateful.

Prowell Lawn Services at the ready…

And lest you think I have retired from my day job…

the greater irony of spending an entire day throwing hay around…

is that I have spent the last month doing my best to paint it.

No no, you will have to wait for those pics.

Suffice it to say,
I got PLENTY of up close and personal reference material today.

Now go and make your own dreams come true.

 

 

 


Let the garden begin !!!

THANK YOU HOMER…

our CSA pals came to the rescue to help us haul 50 bales of hay to the studio today.

Shout out to Sunnyside Farm…here’s a link to their blog and website.

They are about 12 minutes from us and besides being fascinating humans, Dru, Homer and Claire, on their Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm, harvest acres of veggies, chickens, turkeys, beef, pork and gorgeous flowers. I’m sure that’s not the complete list.

We can’t live without their eggs and are thrilled that they have convinced the girls to keep laying throughout this winter ! They have local farm pick up once a week and drive to markets in Hershey and Maryland on a regular basis. Check them out to support your local farmers.

Today they supported us.

You’ll remember reading on this blog recently of the Ruth Stout garden I’m going to establish this year.  I’ll be adding regular updates to share the process but today is the beginning.

I’ve got three flats of leek and onion seedlings well on their way. They are soaking up the sunshine in the studio patron lounge and will soon be joined by the cold weather startups like beets and chard and carrots when the annual Valentine’s Day studio sowing takes place.

This hay wants to be on the ground yesterday, so I’ll get to enjoy the coming warmup as I toss these bales around.

Which makes me think of …

The Hay Whisperer

Stay tuned and stay frosty out there.


Late to the party

I’m getting a late start today.

My frantic mind had settled enough to let the sun come up without my help,
which gave the overnight coating of sleet enough time to begin to melt,
and sorting the box of newly arrived garden seeds was a most pleasurable task to begin with, then a walk to the compost pile turned into a bike ride in the greenhouse,
which lead me to Ruth…

(photo credit Mother Earth News)

Ruth Stout.
The other party to which I am late in coming today.

Arriving at this sixtieth decade I seem to be only just now stumbling across the paths of quite a few amazing humans. This week it is Ruth.
Or was, as she left the planet after 96 years of living here, back in 1980.

I’ll bet that most of my hard core gardening friends are smirking as they read this having known of Ruth and her simple ways well before my stumble…Ruth Herself didn’t throw away her tillers and pesticides until she was 60…so there ya go.

The evolution of my own gardening life saw me give away a brand new tiller a few years ago after learning about building better soil by letting the critters do the work..and I know many of you followed along as I adopted Joel Karsten’s Strawbale method which I have been experimenting with for about 5 years now… and that has morphed more recently into my latest guru Charles Dowding’s No Dig compost only beds which Kory has been helping me build and tend.

Well move on over and pass the hay…
it’s time to quit working so hard and strip down to the essentials.

I’ll let you enjoy this introductory video… for those who are not smirking,
and you can google down this rabbit hole to your hearts’ content…
because it’s time for me to lift some brushes…
but before I go…
here’s a little teaser of a nod to my favorite part…
she gardens in the buff.
Yes.
Yes.


Solstice Gardening

A little dirt on your hands…in December ???

You bet.

I’ve been watching the forecast like a hawk and we’ve got a slight warming trend for the next week or so…averages above 40 and near 50 degrees. And coupled with the sunshine Finn and I headed out this morning to soak up some of that vitamin D, and I thought you’d like to join us.

In the photo above you can see those beds which Kory and I tucked in for the winter. The two in the foreground have some plantings and a cold frame. Let’s take a peak…

Under that tunnel on the right is an earlier fall planting of carrots. I invested in those tunnels for the first time this year and they are terrific. The manufacturer is Haxnicks. I went just now to Amazon to find a link but they only have the fleece version. The one shown here has a poly netting. Very sturdy and allows a lot of light in as well as terrific insect protection. They also make a heavier shade version which I’ve used with great success in deep summer heat. I’m using this one to cover the carrots and provide a structure over which I can drape a heavier plastic sheeting for insulation. We’ve had weeks of sub-freezing temps and so far they are not dead…so that’s a win.

The mini greenhouses, one shown on the left, are new this year. They fit the bed perfectly and I anchored them to the wooden frames for extra security. I did find that link…click here. (Actually I just checked the link and it is not the exact one shown above but it is the same manufacturer. Might need to do more surfing than I have time for right now to find the right one.)

So far I love them. I had a larger version of them years ago and, in the warmer winters, it gave me a full extra season of growth for kale and chard and even some pop up spinach volunteers.

You can see this swiss chard, planted last march, is still going strong and is my go to smoothy ingredient.

Today it was time to experiment with the second one I bought, and so the flat of seedlings which have been keeping me company inside the studio were ready to rock and roll…

I popped out a few of the kale and Hakuri turnips and out we went…

My theory is that this one may be warmer than the other as it is sheltered from some of the winds by the greenhouse which may also throw back some warmth from the south facing sun.

Here you can also see the easy access from the zippered panels.

Boy did it feel great to sit on my garden bench and hold the Hori Hori knife, and just like that they were planted. I have zero expectations that newly planted seedlings will make it planted this late but I live in hope these days.

It wasn’t in the original plans, but I thought adding one of those tunnels here might give an extra layer of warmth, and it worked out perfectly as a support for…

Yep…the christmas lights.

Somewhere I read of a  gardener putting a string of lights inside a cold frame to add a tiny bit of heat during the night. Why the hell not. I can never get enough of christmas lights.

I’ve put the compost thermometer in there so I’ll have some idea of the comparison between the two covered beds.

As you can see, a solid 43 degrees before I covered was promising.

And here we are all bundled up and ready to grow…maybe.

 

It’s a sea of mud out there now, and shortly after I wrote last week’s post those pesky Muses actually did show up and have made up for my basket of angst by hurling half a dozen new and sparkling challenges my way.

So…as Finn conquers…it’s time for me to get back to the easel…

But Oh My Goddesses did it ever feel good to be out working in the garden on this almost Solstice day.

 

 

 


One of those days

Feeling fractalled.

Today started out just fine.

Beautiful December sunrise light bouncing all around us as Finn and I made our icy commute from log cabin to studio. She opted for an early morning nap while I sat at the kitchen table and clicked the knitting needles and gave the muses plenty of open space.

Last night I put the last touches on a portrait of my pal Peter. It was wonderful to come over these last few days knowing I would be spending it with him. But now, time to move on. Usually, and by that I mean 99% of the time, by the time I am winding down one painting there are at least two or three others competing for the easel. But by the time Herself came over mid-morning she found me roaming aimlessly around the studio…still pondering.

We sat together at the table and she listened as I rambled and a few ideas did start to pop. She reminded me to write them down, so I made some quick doodles, and the energy lifted. She left to do some shopping and I sat down at the computer and began playing with some of the thousands of photo references on file.

At sixty, I know that it takes more than a list of subjects, or a collection of still life objects to start working on a composition. In order to sustain the energy required to give my total attention, over the course of the days and weeks it takes to create a painting, I must feel the spark. My way in. It can be the challenge of a new subject, or the challenge of rendering a familiar subject in a new way, or a particular emotional connection, or the whimsy of finally telling the story behind a few words, which held the promise of a great title, and had been scribbled on a, now well worn and dog-eared, slip of paper taped to the easel.

I KNOW it when it clicks…
and so far today…
nada.

I keep telling those who ask, that being a mature artist means I know when to get out of my own way. After six hours of sitting here at the computer scanning for that spark, and sketching and re-working a new composition which I originally had thought was going to be a sure winner, one which would be easy to tweak and get to the panel quickly…I can see now how I fell right down the rabbit hole and into that old trap..quite firmly planted directly in my own way. If the muses don’t show up…there ain’t gonna be a ball game.

When Pat came home from her errands I was hopelessly lost. I explained what I thought the problem with that composition was and asked for her fresh eyes. Eh…no sparks on her end either. So, I threw in the towel and decided to pour my vapid thoughts all over this page.

What I’ve come up with, whilst writing, is that this current crisis of creativity is yesterday’s problem.

I’ll set the stage…

I had an hour to fill while I waited for Katie’s Women’s Study class to call me for a facetime thingy…something about which I was very nervous. They had been in the Granary Gallery last week using the artwork there as fodder for a discussion about gender in art.

Here’s a shot, which I believe one of the gallery associates took, of them studying my painting, Celeste envies Ruth.

 

After their sojourn, Katie thought it would be interesting to pose their questions and thoughts directly to the artist. I got a tutoring session on how to make the technology work and we scheduled a date.

So, while my nervous self was waiting for the phone to ring yesterday morning, I picked up a pencil…and BAM the Muses snuck up behind me, grabbed the pencil and in minutes they had fleshed out one of those old dog-eared notations-of-an-idea which had laid dormant, after several failed attempts to work out a solid composition, on other fractalled days like today when I had tried to show up for work without them.

You probably won’t see what I see here, but this is the sketch…

Five minutes later the phone rang, and I had a grand old time answering their questions and listening to their thoughts. I particularly loved them pondering which apron was Ruth and which Celeste, and their takes on why. They sure left me thinking, and that may have been why the Muses were exploring their own interpretations of gender roles in art.

Originally I had just a title, A Boston Marriage.

I’ll leave it there for now, it’s entire evolution won’t be complete until this fat lady sings…
but armed with this new sketch, and the lingering energy of the collective Woman’s Studies class, I was eager to get to work.

I already had my models in waiting…and waiting..and waiting…since I first approached them with this request over two years ago.  And we have plans to see them for dinner this weekend…but scheduling modeling time now that the Muses have arrived means postponing the fun of digging into this painting for potentially days or weeks.

And there you have it.
I needed a workaround.
Alas, I stepped all over the creative flow with today’s failed attempts to “fill in” the gap between that project, for which I have found the spark, with something equally compelling that will be the work of days rather than weeks.

Frustrating to waste one of these precious days when I have nothing but lifting brushes on the agenda. This month has far too many interruptions on the calendar to allow me to pull up the drawbridge. That will happen the minute the new year bells chime.

So, rather than call this day a complete wash, I have now used you dear readers to help me work through this…

And Herself,
who has just texted me this from her snuggly sofa in the cabin…

“What painting are you working on ? Asking for a friend (insert red heart emoji)”

My response… I’m writing a blog about NOT coming up with a painting idea.

Stay frosty out there…

H

 


Dreams and Secrets

Feeling mournful on this morning,
I am finding the light I seek
in the wonders of a grandchild.

There are two new paintings
which I am packaging up today
to wing their way out to Santa Fe
to the Sugarman Peterson Gallery

May they bring you some peace.

Dreamcatcher  –  20 x 22

Not sure if it’s the finch or her perch
but this tender glancing gesture
reminds me of a little poem
by Micheal Longley…

 

A TOUCH

after the irish

she is the touch of pink
on crab apple blossoms
and hawthorn and she melts
frost flowers with her finger

 

AND…

“There are no secrets we keep from our shoes.”  –  16 x 20

Always willingly,
but quite unknowingly,
Zoe helped me tell a story
which I’d been wanting to tell
for many many years…

Shortly after his wife Polly died
my pal Ted brought down from the attic
tied together with one sturdy twined string
a pair of purple suede pumps,
saying Polly had wanted me to have these.

Then he told me the story
that, when on a trip to San Francisco,
they had bought this pair of shoes
for a special occasion
and Ted, being Ted,
had gussied them up with some sparkly silver painted swirls
and they, the Meinelts and their shoes
had danced the night away.

When it came time to pack for the trip home
the shoes wouldn’t fit in their suitcase.
So, Polly being Polly,
she slapped some shipping labels on the soles
tied them together with that twine
and dropped them in the closest US Mail box.

In gifting them to me
I understood that the torch of a challenge
had been passed.

Over the years
the sparkle paint has faded
but the purple of those pumps
has kept on popping that story
into my creative consciousness.

Along the way,
and true to form,
the Muses threw a title down like a gauntlet…

While listening to Alexander McCall Smith’s
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series,
a perennial studio favorite,
the character Mma Grace Makutsi,
she who graduated at 97% in her secretarial class,
utters the line..
“There are no secrets we keep from our shoes.”

The context is a bit complicated to explain
and if you’ve read this far in these painter’s notes
then you probably are already familiar
with the conversations Grace has with her shoes,
and if you aren’t then you are in for a treat
as I believe there are up to 19 books in that series now
and no, I cannot remember well enough to credit the exact
volume in which this line appears, apologies to Mr. Smith.

What is relevant for our story here
is that I stopped the flying brushes
and wrote that line down
on a scrap of paper
which has made the cut  on every list
in each sketchbook since
of what I want to paint next.

So…
when Zoe was visiting the studio last summer
and she had emptied the drawer of all the aprons
and had carefully tied each one of them on
one on top of the other,
and she asked if I had any shoes to go with her outfit…

well there ya go.

It wasn’t until she took a break from all that cooking
and collapsed with a hrrrumph
into the comfy easel chair
and propped up her exhausted and aching feet
and the muses veritably SCREAMED at me
that I…finally…had my way in.

I don’t know whether this train
will take her all the way to Botswana
but I know with all my heart
that in her dreams…
those shoes are dancing.