Our valiant carrot whisperer is 10 years old today !!!
This painting was done when she was 8. So much has changed in the world since then…
But Zoe’s imagination is growing brighter every day.
Sending you love and eagle hugs from the studio kiddo.
The Carrot Whisperer
“…I believe that everyone has imagination, that no matter how mature and adult and sophisticated a person might seem, that person is still essentially an ex-baby. And as children, we all lived in an imaginal world…you know, when you’d be told, “Don’t cross that wall, because there’s monsters over there,” my God, the world you would create on the other side of the wall. And when you’d ask questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where does God live?” or all this kind of stuff…like one of the first times I was coming to America, I said to my little niece, who was seven, I said, “What will I bring you from America?” She said, “Uh…” and her father said, “No, ask him, or you won’t get anything.” And Katy turned to me and said, “What’s in it?” – (laughs) – which I thought was a great question about America.”
An excerpt from the On Being conversation between Krista Tippet and the Irish Poet John O’Donohue
Our little carrot whisperer would have asked that same question at 7. Now she is 8 and when we see her soon I will ask her but mostly I like to listen.
Zoe is one of the most richly vibrant souls it has been my pleasure to share the planet with.
Her curiosity is fueled by a Tigger-like enthusiasm.
Stealthy observation informs her empathy.
And story telling is her super power.
So, last summer, when I asked her seven year old self to pose with the freshly picked carrot and she examined it for a long while deciding it made her think of the snowman Olaf’s nose…
Then she thought the long green fronds looked like hair and she curled them in an arc over her head…
and I waited
And she started a story about how that made her feel like a queen and she was going to take the carrot to visit her castle…
and I waited
until the queen decided she was in a carriage and the carrot would, therein, accompany her and she rested it regally on her shoulder closed her eyes and beckoned the footman to ride on.
An artist can’t choose her Muses.
We can only sharpen our brushes everyday in the hopes that when they are ready to appear we can catch them on … the whisper.
In this corner of the planet Fridays are trash pickup days. The trucks roll before dawn so Thursday is officially Trash Day.
In this state of lockdown, with time whipping by like the wicked witch in Dorothy’s Kansas tornado, when Herself starts the day by saying, “It’s trash day” I feel like there are two thursdays in each week.
Today is trash day…again.
That’s all I have to say about that, except it explains why I thought it had been only a week since I last posted. Calendar says 10 days. I’ll just leave that there.
I spent my lunch hour on this Thursday watching my pal David Wallis on my phone.
He’s a fellow artist who not only shares wall space with my work at the Granary Gallery, he also manages it and he’s pretty darn good at both.
As pART of our artist series, we present David Wallis leading a demonstration in watercolors. Today, he will take us through the basics of color and how to compose a fantastic watercolor of your own. All levels are encouraged to join!1:30 pm DemoThis is a prerecorded demo (the internet connection in David's studio is poor). 2:10 pm Join David LIVE for a Q&A on ZOOM ZOOMhttps://zoom.us/j/3120891796?pwd=dDdXckQvWWN6cllJNGFMSXdFTDNRZz09Meeting ID: 312 089 1796Password: 542847See more of David's work at:https://granarygallery.com/search-works.php?keyword=david+wallis
If I did that right you should see a link to their FB page above…where you can also have lunch with David while he performs his Intro to Color Theory ala Watercolors Demo.
It was fun to watch from my studio kitchen and this old dog even learned a new trick.
Another new thing I am learning to do is to comb wool.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my pillow cases are restocked with new fleece and with that I set out to upgrade my fiber prep.
Behold…the Viking combs.
I think the rake on the right is jealous of the craftsmanship as she photobombed the new gals in town.
Basically you load the wool onto the stationary comb and bring thecomb in your free hand through the locks in series of perpendicular passes until the fiber is loaded up on that comb. Two or three passes is all it takes. What you see pictured below is the second pass where already the fibers are beautifully lined up and open.
Then you load it onto the larger blending hackle…
and THEN you pull it off into this light and fulffy nest like length of roving…
It’s traditionally a concave disc, I’ve seen them made from whale bone, wood and plastic…but when you are also a spoon carver and you have a bag of unfinished spoons..well you pick out one that feels right and drill a hole in it and add some decoration and Bob’s your uncle you have a Diz.
but for me the handle is a bonus and makes it easy for my right hand to grasp while pulling the fiber through the tiny hole with the left hand. I needed one more hand to hold the camera in order to show you that but Herself was busy so maybe later.
This new skill and method is fabulous and fun to learn. Soooo much easier on my hands than other carders and the resulting roving is an absolute dream to spin. Not sure why it took 40 years for me to try this, possible the terrifying sharpness of all those tines… but there’s no looking back.
I’m experimenting with yarn thickness hoping to produce some thinner yarn than I usually make and so far I have five skeins…
the one on the far left was the first one out of the fleece and done before I started using the viking combs. Much less uniform. The combs do a much better job of aligning the fibers which results in a “Woolen” rather than “Worsted” spun yarn. There’s your fun fact for today…
which is a Thursday.
Now I’m off to take the trash out before getting around to my actual day job.
I suppose you can look for me to be doing one of those pARTicipate at home gigs in the future. It’ll be hard to beat Dave’s smooth delivery.
Stay tuned and stay frosty out there…
Here’s a couple sheep…just outstanding in their field…
The Flock 2019
And we have arrived at the end… only to start at the beginning.
I owe everything Vineyard to my friend Lynn. She brought me here for the first time.
We would throw a box of spaghetti and some brownie mix into her car and drive from our shared apartment in Somerville out to the ferry and over to her beloved island.
It was ten years or more before I even knew there were towns other than Chilmark.
We drove straight from boat to bluff and left only briefly for the annual lobster from Larsen’s …and regular visits to Chilmark Chocolate.
Lynn had the biggest heart I’ve ever known and its core and depths were chiseled out of those cliffs.
Her honest and joyful humor was wedged in between every one of the giant stones she tended along her wall.
Her kindness and overflowing generosity live on in the daffodils that now soak up her spring sunshine.
Her friendship and her family have given me the closest thing to a home that I have ever known.
The monarch is for her. Actually it may BE her.
For me they always will be.
On the day I captured this light there was a very short window of this calm after the storm just enough time for the sheep to make their way across the field to where I stood and as the sun began to set she flew behind me and landed on this bend of grass and stayed until I turned around.
Her smile was exactly as I remembered it with that laughter and love come to share the moment which I had been searching for all those years as we had made a ritual of stopping at this turnout each time we left her camp to see if the sheep were there and the muses might be too.
After four decades … and with a wink and a nod from one happy dancing angel they did.
Bless you John Prine and Bette Midler for piercing my 20 year old heart with that song. It pulled me by the teeth to the other side of a gripping depression and became a touchstone along the way for the next 40 years. I have always worn my fried egg on the outside…proudly because of you.
Me at 20 -1978
Etching from college portfolio – 1978
So I just got off the phone with my pal Peter Follansbee. I’m throwing a link to his website here …click… so that you can spend some of that extra screen time that we all have these days to visit with him and his woodworking. He, like most of us creative types, is able to continue plying his craft and is producing some fabulous new work.
Both Peter and his wife Maureen are historians who worked at Plymoth Plantation so they have a unique perspective on the 17th century. Peter’s focus was primarily on all things wood while Maureen was the textile expert. So it was that today, when we were comparing quarantine notes in our social distancing phone chat, and I brought up my own next woodworking project… Peter said Maureen wrote an article about that. He’s gonna dig it up for me… and I’m all ears…because…
As I sat in the studio kitchen one morning last week…looking out at the same view I’ve been greeted with for over a decade…the Muses lit a match.
Spark…at the end of the walkway…the centerpiece of the Morag Gamble bed…were the washtubs that Susan gave me years ago for a planter. Deb’s begonias and a few annuals bloom there every summer and brighten that corner. And the extra light that now shines there in the wake of the giant ash tree removal last year…was apparently just what the Muses needed.
Because…wait for it…they are WASH tubs.
This was the beginning of what turned out to be Olde Timey Sunday.
Well the true beginning was actually the two hours it took me to repair the hose faucet and run a line out to the tubs. But after that …well after I had to whittle a couple stoppers out of our stash of wine corks. But THEN we got it going.
The washing part was made so much easier with those tubs. But the next stage…wringing…eh not so much. My hands aren’t strong enough any more to do that. So I did some research. Of course there is a youtube video on that…and with that help I’ve figured out a way to build a wringer. Hopefully Maureen’s article about doing laundry in the 1600’s will give me a few other pointers. I’ll keep you posted on the making of the wringer…for now you can ponder on the parts list…a rolling pin and bungy cords were ordered from Amazon and the garage will need to be cleared out enough to get to the wood stack and the tools.
It always gives me an energy boost to have a new problem to solve and a project to build, and while the clothes were drying in the sunny breeze, Herself began clearing out the greenhouse…so we could get to the spinning wheel.
A small farm in Idaho where Romney Sheep are raised and where they are kind enough to send an extra gift bag for safe storage…
One of the best days of our year is the trip in May to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and one of the first dominoes to fall in our corner of this pandemic was the early cancellation of that festival. Having had to miss the last two years I was doubly sad. But social media came to the rescue and, after putting a query out to our resourceful peeps, I had several leads on where I might procure some spinning fleece.
One of the best parts of that side trip was reconnecting with Tom Knisely. A wonderful weaver friend of old who lives just over the hill from the studio and we have only now discovered that he has a new weaving/spinning retreat and workshop with his daughter Sara Bixler…oh the excitement as I get to anticipate the day when the vaccine arrives and we can go back out into the world …the very first place I will go is…
So now I’m all set.
The old wheel got some new grease. When the weather gets just a bit warmer I’ll be out there in my most peaceful place with soft silky fiber steadily spinning onto the bobbin.
The pioneering theme closed out the day with a simple quiet rise…
And there is no better way to illustrate the way that all this hand work soothes the soul …
It is such a pleasure to look out on this farm when I’m working. And this winter, for the first time since we turned the bungalow next door into my studio, we had a real winter. This was the morning after the first storm. Finnegan and I were the only ones out in the neighborhood… just as the birds were waking up. I spend most of my days, in this corner of Pennsylvania, painting corners of Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve waited for three years now to find a way into painting what is right outside my very own window. It was the warm golden light that glowed from within the stand of drying cornshalks in that morning’s sunrise that did it for me. I started with the treeline on the horizon and then the barn, that magnificent old dame and then the cornfield layering color after color in the foreground in preparation for toning it all down to create that field of white. Good thing as it turned out. Halfway through the painting I looked out and all of that lovely corn had been harvested. A moment’s beauty…fleeting but recorded now to remind me how to see.
These are the Glory sisters. They greeted me fully open to this stellar morning…even though I was later than usual.
1 – We can only watch two episodes of any given series at night. I can’t expect to get any painting OR gardening done if the first number my eyes see in the morning starts with a 9.
2 – I can work in the garden with absolutely no guilt, rationalities or apologies of any kind all morning.
3 – IF I agree to stop at noon.
4 – Where upon I will eat breakfast AND lunch in one meal.
5 – All other work, including blog posts, bill paying, business stuff, and random google searching will be ceased at 1pm.
6 – Where upon I will show up at the easel and begin to paint.
7 – Only two pieces of Easter Chocolate per day…Until Easter…writes the Atheist.
8 – I will put down the brushes by sunset…currently around 8pm.
9 – Going forward I will use only two olives in my Quarantini…s.
10 – This year I will break all records for time spent in the sky chair.
It is now 2:29. So the rest of this blog post will be a dump of photos showing progress on Rule # 2…
Yesterday was potting up day… The Dill got new digs…
I am figuring out a recipe for my own potting soil since this is the year of stay at home ingenuity…some sieving required…
A prescription for heartburn pills makes for the perfect tamper downer when seeding flats…
Teeeeeeny seeds…wedding ring for scale…
This morning’s glorious sunshine was perfect to plant parsnips…
Ruth welcomes all seeds…so the last two feet of this parsnip run will have carrots, those white dots are pelleted seeds, Ruth preferred scattering over rows and it was much easier to try that here. The ground was rich dark brown and amazingly…in this the wettest part of the yard…and after a torrential storm in the middle of the night…was well drained and easy to work. I did add a thin layer of peat moss to help keep the seeds under some cover, then added a thin fleece over that to keep the light peat from blowing away, and the netted tunnel over that to keep critters out.
On the other end of the RS garden I’ve got the squash tunnel set up.
And I was able to move two more straw bales to complete the entry gate…The bales will have flowers planted in them for the pollinators.
And now it is 2:54…
One of the changes in our lives with this stay at home deal is that we, who do not have a washing machine, are doing our laundry in the sink. The drying part is no problem because we have an umbrella line in the studio yard.
I noticed this morning that my new method of brush wiping…when using the tiny brushes they tend to hold more of the turpentine in the ferrule when I wash them out…which I do more often than usual when rigging boats…hint as to current subject matter…the ferrule is the silver part of the brush pictured below and the paper towels rest on my knee to wipe that excess off.
So this is how I noticed what I noticed…
I guess that my right elbow is resting on…all that excess wet paint.
My uniform wears her battle scars well don’t ya think?
So of course…today’s painting is…
Bringing in the Sheets – 2014
I know people, ok, two people,who hang their laundry out all year long. My laundress is not a fan of this.
In our next house there will be a washer and dryer. I have promised.
For now, and for the last quarter of a decade, that weekly chore has been done up to town, next to the local pizza joint.
Herself is on a therapists basis with the owner, and most of her best stories have originated between the spin cycles. The characters join her there, making entrances and exits worthy of the bard Himself, with the odd parrot or two on the shoulders of the jester stage left.
So, when it came time to pose for this painting,I actually had to search the studio for the clothespin. It’s Ted’s, and that elegant swan shaped clip at the end is the perfect balance of classic style and Yankee ingenuity… just like Ted.
I hung the line at sunrise, between the greenhouse and the grape arbor and waited. The first rays of sunlight caught the top of the sheet and I quickly called Pat over from the cabin to pose. In the initial sketches, done a few weeks before, the shirt was to be white, so I figured I could fake that part or pose her again later.
We played around with the angles and then I sketched and took some photos and went inside to work. When she called to let me know that Herself was headed up to the laundromat I walked outside to stretch my legs and whammo… a whole new light was cascading across that sheet. I made her run back and, in very short order, I had what would become the final composition.
You can see that the white shirt, which was still crumpled in the unwashed laundry bag, when the light changed for the better, stayed hidden there… and the striped shirt of the laundress which seemed to echo the uniforms of those hard scrubbing for-bearers… remained.
I believe fundamentally in paying homage to the women upon whose shoulders we rise and to the makers of clothespins.
A wonderful day book-ended with a spell in the sky chair. This sunset deepened and lasted for almost two hours. Ta very much nature goddesses.
And a heartfelt thank you to all who reached out to send birthday greetings. You all know what it means and it seems like one of the ways this crisis is impacting our worlds is that the tenor and quality of distance socializing feels genuinely kinder. So let’s keep paying that forward. Good on Ya humans !
We were told to expect clouds all day yesterday so, when the sunshine hung around and around I gave in and putzed in the garden.One ridiculous caper found us wetting ourselves after trying to move just one bale of straw. Now it was rain soaked so that added extra weight but I’m guessing close to 80 lbs. I can normally lift dry bales with some effort and, as you’ve read here, I used to be able to point a finger and rely on Kory to tote those bales.
Alas, the virus, so Pat and I tried…and collapsed after that first bale.
Lunch felt like a good idea so we retreated and treated ourselves to a viewing of …Fantastic Fungi. Wow. Our son Jon turned us on to this movie and movement. You can rent or buy it only from their website…click here. I highly recommend for every curious mind…especially for inquisitive youngsters. They are going to get to see and drive monumental changes in our planet in their lifetimes based on this science. Pick the biggest screen you have access to and get the room nice and dark…enjoy.
The rest of the day was peaceful…planting here and there and checking under the fleece…
The salad bed planted two weeks ago is coming along…slooooowly. Carrots and those beets on the left and spinach on the right had overwintered. I yanked most of the beets as the roots were gnarly. Carrots ok. Spinach ok too. Three lines of lettuce seeds had no germination so I replanted. Radishes are firing up. Side dressing of Dr. Earth’s organic fertilizer and a good soaking and back goes the fleece.
A mediocre supper of Ina’s roasted shrimp, (the shrimp had lots of freezer burn and it should have been 400 degrees in that oven) was lifted by a wonderful sauce of mayo, ketchup, mirin, touch of teriyaki, capers and curry. And we binged two more episodes of Ozark. Late comers we are only on season one. Whew the dreams I had after that…suffice it to say it was a relief to open my eyes this morning and see that the orange jump suit had been left in that nightmare.
These posts are getting long and are mostly just my own way of leaving breadcrumbs, but I will share this morning’s escapade as a PSA.
We had to go out into the world to take Finn to the vet.
It’s all good…don’t fret…Saren…she’s fine…
But part of our goal is to stay on top of a couple of issues that trouble the old gal and part of that regimen is regular shots and meds that we had run out of. In this state, Veterinary Hospitals are considered essential but they are asking to hold off on normal checkups and shots with the exception of Rabies vaccinations. Fortunately for Finn she was due for a rabies booster. And fortunately for us, eternal gratitude to Saren for all things dog here, our vet practice is bang on top of this new world order.
Hill Street Veterinary Hospital
…and a great shout out to Finn’s hero…Dr. Sara Alfano.
They have walk-in hours in the mornings, and a carefully orchestrated protocol for curbside care.
After hearing the tenor of the experts changing over the weekend, alerting that the coming couple of weeks would see the worst impact of this virus, we decided that a quick controlled visit now would be best for Finn.
The only exception to our own protocol was that Pat got to ride along. The poor dear hasn’t been in her car, Martha, for almost a month and that deprivation has been real for her.
Finn requires the aid of a very heavy ramp to help her into the back of the Volvo but we work well as a team and not being able to do HER absolute favorite thing…riding shotgun for her buddy in the car…is an even greater deprivation around here. So…the whole damn family loaded up.
Gloved and masked we drove up and parked. Called the office. They got things ready. Tech came out with mask and I got Finn out. They whisked her up the ramp and into the clinic. Dr. Sara called on my phone and we chatted about Finn’s treatment and meds and got to check in on her, Sara. As one of our special people…we worry. All good she says. The tech brought our girl back out with a bag of meds. We paid via phone. And Bob’s your uncle that was that.
We took the long way home so we could see the flowers and our favorite trees and, since I got out of the car and was in contact with the bag and the harness Finn wears which they had touched, I performed the decon drill and gave Finn an extra treat and here we are.
A great big high five paw of a thank you to the staff and Docs who made that experience go so smoothly. It honestly felt very weird to leave the house, to see other humans, so little traffic, a small group of teenagers in the high school parking lot standing six feet apart and chatting. And I was hyper aware of the invisible villain lurking just beyond the closed windows of the car.
It feels good to have that addressed and done with and now, after a quick walk around the sunny garden, I can settle back in at the easel.
I think these three are a perfect fit for today…all were Saren’s dogs and all were Finn’s pals…but her Bestie was and always be… Tallie…
The last few days have been grim. The siren calls from hospital workers, the mounting numbers of casualties, the criminally incompetent leadership from the oval office, the crippling anxiety that washes over us… wave after unrelenting wave.
The last few days have been sparkling. The return of the indigo bunting outside my window, flats of winter seedlings getting their first feel of wind, Finnegan laying peacefully in the sunshine, lazy conversations over the morning kitchen table with my love, and the glorious unrelenting waves… of that brilliant new green.
While I admit to finding myself frozen in my easel chair, not able to summon the creative energy to pick up even the tiniest of brushes, I am showing up every day. I know the Muses are here and I’m listening, but it sounds like static now…loudly buzzing and confusing.
And what I know about that is to get up outta that chair and go outside.
The glorious gift of having Herself by our sides during these stay at home days means Finn and I are at our happiest in our happy place… wallowing in the brightening colors of the studio garden…
My organizer using her superpower…
Anyone who needs or wants some of this plastic just holler…
While she sorted…I planted…
Two rows of peas planted in Ruth…which is a bit spicy to read back…
And…at the end of that glorious day…a bit of well earned sky chair rest…
So today’s painting will be a very early work which honors another of my love’s superpowers…
The Folder – 2000
This is quite simply inspired by my friend Rex. He is a poet. Our histories have walked side by side for over forty years. Our paths have criss-crossed over most of them. Our souls have always been as one.
And it is for Pat, my folder.
Folded things speak well of you when you’re out of the room. They hold the near future captive, like children about to go on recess or sexual pleasure at the brim of control. I think of the pressure of your hand smoothing over the cloth napkin, the bedsheet, the piece of clothing that signals the meal to come, the lovemaking, the spent day — and how you stack the bath towels as high as they’ll go, as a driver well keep the fuel tank near full during times of shortage. I step out of the shower looking to the center of my life, where you have folded it. Creases will have nothing to do with edges: It’s no accident that ledges are ledges and valleys, so far removed from any real horizon, where people most often choose to put down roots and grow. I like to imagine that God, who, faced with formlessness, folded the world into manageable corners, sent me you to repeat the gesture. Rex Wilder