The Carrot Whisperer

The Carrot Whisperer  –  24 x 32

“…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…

I waited

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.


Alex

Alex  –  18 x 18

“When you look at some faces, you can see the turbulence of the infinite
beginning to gather to the surface. This moment can open in a gaze from a stranger,
or in a conversation with someone you know well. Suddenly, without their intending it
or being conscious of it, their gaze lasts for only a second. In that slightest interim,
something more than the person looks out.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

My pal Alex, the philosopher fisherman, is a muse of the most mysterious kind.

He arrives unannounced, on silent feet, and rings the bell
hanging ourtside my studio door…once.
One clear ring.
And never when I am listening for it, so it’s always a gift.

He is never empty handed.
Most often a fishing pole is leaned against the porch,
with a bit of tackle,
or a turtle
or a golf ball
or the bottom shard of an old bottle…
and then we talk.

Picking up right where we left off,
even if it was a year ago,
the conversation flits about according to where his curious eyes land
or where my wandering mind does.

It can bounce around all day,
or sit solidly on something heavy for a while.
All topics are worthy of our examination
and his curiosity is contagious.

One day
during the summer he was 14
he came bearing a turtle.
“I thought you would like to paint this”
I wasn’t entirely sure,
but brought my camera out,
rather than the turtle in,
and he held it in the sunshine for me to see.

It was a beautiful creature
with patterns and colors that we studied
under the tutelage of his vast knowledge of local nature.
He and his subject were reverential
of each other and I was just there to record.

It was a while before I saw him again,
and in the interim I sorted through those photos
to see if anything connected with the brushes.

What snapped my heartstrings was his face.
The presence and the peace that was a young boy
just beginning to tip into adolescence.

I made some notes and put it aside.

The next time I saw Alex,
was a hot summer afternoon.
He had been fishing after a morning of chores
and was shirtless and sunburned with the creek
dripping off of his sneaks.

The muses struck…
What wasn’t working from that first photo shoot
was that he had been wearing very dark eyeglasses.
I asked him to pose again as now I could
clearly see all of his face.

So we found a turtle sized rock
and tried to recreate the scene.

And then another year went by.

I found myself reviewing the two sets of photos,
knowing it was time to work on this painting.
But what I had before me was a dramatic contrast.

Alex holding the turtle was clearly a young boy.
Alex holding the turtle stone was absolutely a young man.

I really labored over this one.
In the end I decided to do both,
eventually the turtle will surface.

But I had been reading the poetry of John O’Donohue,
the brilliant poet from Ireland,
and came across his writings On Beauty.
Just slayed me.

And centered me squarely on this gentle face.
The landscape of this young man
written across that brow
brimming with confidence
pale cheeked innocence fading
into those widening sunwashed shoulders.

Here is my handsome Muse
only last week
taming another wild creature
on my studio porch.

Drum on kind Sir.

 


Anna’s Woodshed

Anna’s Woodshed  –  18 x 21

Anna Kuerner and her husband Karl immigrated from their home in Germany
to Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.

Together with their growing family, they farmed a hillside
which now is filled with buttercups in the spring.

I stood amongst those buttery yellow harbingers
on a warm afternoon in May
studying the wide stuccoed front porch
of their 19th century farmhouse
and noticed a break in the solid rectangular lines
of the main house.

Around back
when you first step into the kitchen
this doorway is to your left.

Through it you can see a passageway
from the kitchen
and then the window
and on into the room.

Karl built this woodshed
attached to the house
so that Anna,
who insisted on cooking with a wood fired oven,
would not have to go out in inclement weather
to fetch her fuel.

On this stormy
creek flooding
weather heavy day…

I’d say there’s a special kind of love
in that gesture.

PS- Pat requested a second blog post today. It’s been a tad stressful here and she says that these posts make her happy. So, here ya go Babe. Love, me.


Our Lady of the Dunes

Our Lady of the Dune  –  24 x 28

Ahhhh…the Vineyard.

This majestic spirit watches over Lucy Vincent Beach.
If you were standing there now
and turned around
you would see nothing but the ocean.

As I write this here in my Pennsylvania studio
it kinda sorta feels like that ocean
is being wrung out of a beach towel
directly over our heads.

A train of tropical moisture has been parked
over much of the east coast for days
and two blocking pressure systems have squeezed that train
into a narrow pipeline through central PA.

Many of you may be right in that pipe with us today
and I hope you are safe. Our Little Conewago Creek is
thinking about big time flooding and with more storms in the pipeline
we’ve been  carrying treasures and trinkets up to higher ground.

Only 50 feet away, the studio is a full story higher than our
creekside log cabin, so I am writing this from my studio office
where it is more or less higher and a tiny bit drier.
My haven of creativity will be our home until the waters recede.

And, if those muses can all come together
and summon up some powerful
positive karma…

We will be on that beach
and bowing to this goddess of
goodness and light
in a very few days…


Tashmoo Morning

Tashmoo Morning  –  30 x 48

Only last night
I got a text from Katie saying…
“Miss driving with you. And Ted”

Ted Meinelt was a very special person
for both of us.

So, to keep his memory alive
Katie and I began a tradition
of going on…Ted Drives.

There are no rules,
plenty of snacks,
sometimes bags of knitting,
and always an unexpected adventure.

We started out by honoring Ted’s unique
knowledge of the island and its’ history
by taking each other to places off the beaten tracks.

Katie took me on a walking tour of
the MV African-American Heritage Trail sites
in and around Oak Bluffs.

I took her into the creepy
corners of the old Marine Hospital
before it began the renovation
to become the home for the MV Museum.

Like Ted had done for us,
being both Muse and Mentor,
we were in search of subjects to paint
and island stories to learn.

We are both older
and braver now
and our explorations
have become a bit more challenging.

On one of our trips last October
we got out the map
and decided to head for a spot
on the northern shore.

It was a dark and stormy day.
One of those island days when
there is no space between the sky and the sea
and the clouds sit right down beside you on the road.

Our first destination was to find
the hidden coves of Lake Tashmoo.

Now the road out there is
a sandy trail of solid ruts
some of which could easily
have swallowed small children
and large volkswagons.

I’m talking 16 wheel drive.

Narrow enough in spots that
we were pulling our elbows in
even though the windows were closed.

This goes on for what feels like
three months or three hundred miles
but eventually you do come to a clearing
and then the backs of a scattering of houses
whose fronts face the ocean…

and then this.

From the town beach
looking back across the choppy lake
and deep into a thick bank of fog.

Though later in the day,
when we followed yet another very long
and spiderweb lined trail,
we were pleased to arrive at a
wide open grassy plain filled with sunshine…

the only bright spot on Lake Tashmoo beach
that morning
was the happy smile
of my navigator.

Next time Katie…
it’s your turn to drive.

 


Spindrift

Spindrift  –  20 x 22

Rope
and boats
on the sea.

Remember that spinning loft ?
All those woven fibers.
This painting started out to be about the boat.

Behind that cross of knotted rope
is the hull of a whaleboat
suspended from the rigging
along the side of the Charles W. Morgan
come to rest in the harbor
of the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The muses wanted to tell
a different story.
Distill the elements
down to the three..

The rope
the boat
and the sea.

I found a Yankee Magazine video…

of the historic modern day voyage
that the MS Museum made possible in 2015.
Like a freshening breeze,
it takes us onboard the ship
for an upclose look at what it takes
to get her under sail.

And what I saw…
Rope.
Thousands of yards
of Rope.

HUZZAH !
to all who invested
time and treasure
to bring this magnificent
vessel back to life.


The Long Draw

The Long Draw  –  18″ x 60″

Now We Are Six

By A. A. Milne

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

Now We Are Sixty…

When I take stock

of all the steps
along the road

the people and places
the lessons and loves

the pleasures
and the pains

wanderlusts
and home comings all

what seems to
have most defined my life

the whisper of a wake
in this world that has

so far
been me

it is the things
my hands have made.

I am leaving spoons
and chairs

drawings
and paintings

sweaters
and shawls

journals
and quilts

garden beds
and compost piles

scattered along the road
like breadcrumbs

not to find my way home
but to say
I was here.

There is something in spinning called the long draw.
It can be defined as a technique, but spinners will
understand it better as a Zen-like goal that embodies
both skill and soul.
You aim to pull the carded wool as far as your arms
will stretch, while maintaining a steady rhythm to the
wheel, and a gently tapering thinness to the yarn.
It requires practice, and patience, and when achieved
one is truly balanced with the universe and beyond.

My hands know that place well…
and always get there long before my heart does.

 


The Spinning Loft

The Spinning Loft  –  30 x 40

This one got personal.
I am a spinner.

We have one more stop to make in Mystic.
A short walk from the Morgan is a lonnnnnng building

And this is the Spinning Loft,
below which is the Ropewalk at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
There is a short video ...click here...which shows a bit of what this room was all about,
and you can read more of it’s history there as well.

But it really is worth a visit to let all your senses dive into this space.
Resonant with the century old aromas of hemp and salt air,
the velvety soft patine of well worn wooden surfaces,
the sensuous flow of the carded fiber,
it positively sings history.

The perspective isn’t skewed, this building is really 250 ft long,
and it was only one section of the original Plymouth Cordage Company,
which operated until the mid-1900’s and was then moved to the Mystic village.

Here are some close up shots to lure you into the lusciousness of the fibers…

and the long walk back in technology…

And there’s a mystery…

As is so often the case,
when I returned from one of several visits to the museum
and reviewed the thousands of reference photos,
I spied this carving on the giant spinning wheel.

Those frisky muses.

Round about my birthday,
the Follansbee came through on his trek to teach some woodworking down south,
and, being a carver of woody things,
I showed him this part of the painting,
whereupon he said that Plymouth Cordage used to be a company town built around the rope making industry.

I went down a serious rabbit hole after googling it.
I’ll leave those historic details dangling for anyone interested in doing their own research,
but the point here is that many of the old buildings remain in town.

These Painter’s Notes will serve as a reminder to Peter that he said he would look into seeing if anyone in those parts recognizes the building from this carving…
well…from my rendering of the carving.

That should be sorta fun.

For me,
it’s all about the peaceful art…
of spinning.

 

 

 


The Captains Quarters

The Captains Quarters  –  24 x 36

We have climbed the gangplank and boarded the Charles W. Morgan.

Towards the bow of the vessel, just to the right of the great steering mechanism at the helm, there is a narrow winding passage of stairs leading down below the main deck and into the Captain’s quarters. On the right is a room that slants into the bow of the ship, with an elegant sweep of a settee with room enough for a Windsor chair and a small writing desk. Step down and through a doorway to the left and you enter this chamber.

The private sleeping quarters for the captain…a separate cheerie little chamber having been built for at least one of the captain’s wives up on the main deck where she could be relieved of her claustrophobia and seasickness.

The Mystic Seaport Museum has a sign hanging on the other side of that louvered door on the left …

See at the very end there, where it describes the “gimbaled bed”.

That was a fun thing to paint. It looks funny without legs, and I kept wanting to make it level but that’s how it rolls.

What drew me to spend a few weeks inside this chamber was the light. For a dark and close space, this room was filled with many sources of light bouncing within. I found it a happy place to be but I have seen Master and Commander, many many times, and I’m not sure I would have been cut out to sleep anywhere in that ship…
during a storm…
on the high seas.