The Garden is a good place…

to grieve.

It has been a little over a week since my father died and there seems to be an endless stream of logistics to attend to, paperwork to be filled out, emails to answer and to write, and thoughtful considerations to be made by a caring committee of siblings.

Woven through the long hours in the day has been a gossamer thin thread of sadness. It’s soft and shiny enough that I only catch glimpses of it through the haze and weariness of dealing with all the details of death. Living with a hospice nurse for twenty years means I recognize it as grief. But knowing that it is my father who holds its fragile and faraway end has a sharper edge about it than all the other times I’ve seen it.  This one is amber in color…with an Old Holland Red Gold Lake glaze…and has both a startling beauty and a staggering pain.

So, while I know it’s there and see that it’s trying to catch my attention, I am busy right now.

It’s been hard to concentrate at the easel. I’m finding just how much the creative act of painting draws from my deepest emotional pools. It doesn’t surprise me that now, when those emotions are so much closer to the surface, they have such a direct line from the heart to the brush.

So I’ve chosen to do some large muscle therapy.

Finn has been getting me up with the first birdsongs well before the sun rises and we’ve been spending those first cooler hours of the day doing the heavy lifting of turning the compost into the garden soil and getting the beds ready for planting. To Finnegan’s great pleasure we have a plethera of plastic pots. The best dog toy in the world…for our Finn…is a black plastic plant bucket. She will amuse us all for hours with those treasures. I will not embarrass her by sharing my favorite pic of her with one of them on her head like the proverbial lightshade but you get the idea that my gardening obsession is feeding her playful spirit as well as brightening up our yard…

Here in this corner of the planet we are three weeks past the last frost date. Our most tender vegetables should be into their teens by now. I am catching up. I recycled the wood that the roofers left behind in December and have made 5 new raised beds. The greenhouse bed is now in it’s second planting since the ridiculous heatwave has bolted most of the greens…

The best neighbors in the world, Sue and daughter Zola, drove their tractor over this weekend and…while Zola minded the best friend pups, Jed and Finnegan…Sue and Pat and I hauled a huge pile of soil up to the top of the yard. The next day I framed it in with the roofing scraps and made a bed which will nourish some watermelons this summer and, in the fall, will be planted as our long awaited asparagus bed.

 

We’ve expanded the vegetable garden in some unusual ways…

These back beds are producing peas faster than we can eat them this week… and yesterday I planted bush beans, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, and runner beans…

And then there’s the great potato bag experiment…went a bit overboard here… so I’m told…

And the roses, oh the roses, they are doing such a good job of lifting my spirits…

And the greatest gift of all… from Gulliver. I inherited this rose bush from the previous owner. For the last three years it has been eight inches tall and only bloomed once. One single flower. Until I put Gulliver’s wind chime there, just outside of my easel window. Now look at it. Gully likes it when I sit in this chair all by myself in the morning. She rings loud and long to let me know that she’s still got my back.

Finnegan is listening to her too…and learning from both her predecessors how to take good care of me.

So, you see…life is good.


Bon Appetite !

Julia, my hero.

I floated out of the movie theater yesterday afternoon on a cloud of whipped to the peak of perfection egg whites…

at the movies

Magnifique, Superb and Brilliant !!! I laughed and sobbed through the whole flick and the creme de la creme was the gaggle of three women sitting behind us whispering to each other in FRENCH !!!

Julia Child has been a hero of mine for almost my entire life. I watched along with the early PBS viewers as she brought us into her kitchen and taught us to cook and she was elevated to goddess status when I worked in Cambridge and would catch the occasional glimpse of her regal gait bobbing above the crowd on the cobblestone alleyways.  My log cabin kitchen today is surrounded by homages to her genius… from the NY Times Magazine article that quotes her “last meal” suggestions…

my muse

to the windchime that has hung outside the door since her passing…

windchime

to the cupboards that have her famous quote painted on them to remind and inspire…

cabinets

Ahhh Julia…

We took Lorrie’s advice and did eat before we sat down to watch…but on the way home we rewrote our shopping list and Herself made a special trip to town to fetch us the fixings for a feast…

ingredients

A little bruschetta to honor the ripe tomatoes in our garden…

prepping

bruschetta

Then a lesson from the movie and an extra step to dry the scallops (not beef this time) to get a good sear…

drying the scallops

good sear

And of course the money shot…the lobster scream !

the lobster scream

And Voila ! we have Seared Scallops for Pat and Lobster Poached in BUTTER for moi…both over a bed of spinach wilted in garlic butter… ( did I mention butter ?)

main course

Ahhhhhh… our tribute was complete with a dish of Haagen Daz velvety chocolate ice cream topped with fresh raspberries…

dessert

and we raised our glasses to Chere Julia, and to Julie whose blog was inspirational and gave Nora Ephron the medium to shine once again…to Meryll who simply was breathtaking…to life itself which we know to be the proper binge… and to love which after all else is at the very core of every meal… Salute !

Pot Luck


Brushes in the wind

17 January 2009

In the wake of yesterday’s news of the death of Andrew Wyeth it has been somber in the studio. The view outside my window, of a weathered Pennsylvania stone barn and raw umber fields of stubbled winter cornshalks, echoes his own corner of farm land not far from here … and it settles my soul.

Many of you know our tradition of hanging wind chimes in the gardens in honor of loved ones who have died…and you won’t be surprised that this one will need to be special. I’ve decided to make it out of my old brushes.

In my studio, brushes live their lives in stages. I buy in bulk and on sale and only when I’m desparate and the new ones live in a state of reverence in the best of the old jars and mugs until I absolutely have to have that pristine spring and flow. The “working new” then get prime real estate on the table alongside my easel. Separated carefully from the grunts and wiped with the softest rags before being put up at night.

Try as I might, it doesn’t take long before they blend into the rest of the crew and their sabled edges begin to fray and the glossy sheen of their nickel plated ferrules no longer brags. I wean them out every other day or so …the hardest worn, stiffest bristled get tossed into an empty liquin box. When that is full, and the pile has spilled over onto the table, and Gully’s tail has knocked four or five of them on the floor and under the air purifier…then I gather them all up for a serious cleaning.

Last night I threw this bunch into a coffee can with about half an inch of Windsor Newton Brush Restorer  in the bottom. I learned the hard way that this stuff will melt the finish off of the wood, seeing as it is paint !, so I try to make sure it stays only on the bristles. They hang about in that overnight and then I settle in for the tedious second stage which is to scrub them in the tub of Masters Brush Cleaner. Then the big rinse and they’re laid out to dry.

Clean Up

The best of that batch are returned to their staging areas …

Ready to Go

 and the stragglers who refused to come clean are relegated to the graveyard…a box under my workbench…

Graveyard

which, until today, had been the final resting place.

But now I’ve got a better use for them. I’ll let you know when I’ve got Andy’s windchime up.

In the meantime… I’m curious … where do your old brushes go ?