Sunday, July 26, 2015

flowers everywhere

Imagine my delight when I came upon a farm that has a pick your own flower plot.

 They handed me scissors and I came home with a glorious bundle of
sweet peas, stocks and snapdragons.

 My painting studio is in an old textile mill, next to freight train tracks, where a train passes through daily. I've found a delightful variety of wildflowers thriving along the tracks.

I've noticed that if I pay attention, there are flowers everywhere. Popping up through a crack in the pavement, in a pot on a city windowsill, behind a gas station...

and in my garden.

 Peonies opened my eyes to how varied flower buds are. I'm trying to look, not just at the bloom, but at stem, leaves and buds. Every evening when I visit my flowers I have to remind myself to slow down, pay attention.

 The bud of the black-eyed Susan is particularly enchanting.

                                  The dog days of summer are upon us, and I hope to pay attention
                                  to where the flowers are, especially the unexpected places.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer reading, watching, painting

I just got an email from Netflix headed "Watch More, Read Less." Are they watching me? Do they have access to my library card, my online shopping, my bookstore security cameras? Do they know that I've only watched a few hours of tv in the last month? Or is everyone reading more and watching less?

Don't get me wrong, I think Netflix, along with libraries, and long walks, are the best bargains around. In fact, the last thing I watched was a haunting French series, The Returned, on Netflix. But recently I've been reading even more than usual. I come home tired, feed the cats, spend a bit of time in the garden, and read. I start on my little porch, where I have a good view of the rabbits and robins, and stay there until dark. Summer nights.

I'm painting as much as I can these days. It's surprisingly (to me) physical. And not cerebral, which I love. In my off-time I go to museums, read art history, sketch, think; but when I'm actually painting I zen out/zone out. And go home tired.

I've joined a cooperative art gallery, and am building a web site for my paintings. (Very much in progress, here. ) It's terrifying to go public, but it feels right too. More on that another time. I hope to blog more consistently about painting and art in general over on Orchards in Space. (These are clues about the mini-rant on my last post.)

 Meanwhile here are a few things I've recently read and watched that stayed with me. Of course just because I like it doesn't mean you will. I got this idea from Petra, and also see her glorious post here. I'd love to know if you've been reading or watching anything that you are crazy about.


*Sacred Games, Vikram Chandra,  big book of India. Crime, Bombay, people.

The Seashell Collector, Anthony Doerr. short stories (reread). Elegant, nature, thoughtful.

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson. WWII, post-war Britain, family.

***Elizabeth and her German Garden, Elizabeth von Armin. A garden of one's own.

*Reporting Vietnam various journalists. War, history, politics. 

The Really Big One, The New Yorker. Science, earthquakes, holy cow!


The Honorable Woman, BBC mini-series. Espionage, Israel-Palestine, Maggie Gyllenhall.

Wolf Hall, BBC mini-series. History, Royalty, Cromwell.

**The Returned. French mini-series. haunting, love, humanity.

The Americans, FX. Espionage, family, suspense.

**A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Strange endearing little film.

*recommended by one of my Instagram pals (in case you think it's just cats over there).

** recommended by my son Luke, who always finds me eclectic interesting things to watch.

*** recommended by Mise, of Pretty Far West.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

a quick question

I used to be a simple country girl, who read a lot. Now I have more email addresses than I can remember, two blogs, an instagram account, and I'm building a webpage. I upgraded something on my laptop and can't find my pictures, but they magically appear on my mobile device, which used to be a phone.

Is anyone else confused?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

a country weekend

After the four hour drive, up Weaver Hollow Road, then a steep plunge down to our house.

frog pond at dusk
 I walk the property, making sure all is well.

buttercups, rocks, lichen and brook

the blue hills of the western Catskills

 Water and wildflowers, wildflowers and water.

the waterfall
 Wandering, gazing, pondering.

frog pond by day

orange hawkweed a/k/a devil's paintbrush

Ferns, lichen, moss. Stones, bluets, blackberries. Every day in the same places I would seen new things, things anew. There were friends and family, lovingly prepared meals, country roads, farmers markets, my favorite used books store, a gallery opening for a dear friend. I exhale, take a deep breath, breathe.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

green land, pink sea

It was exactly a year ago that the phrase 
"green land, pink sea" occurred to me, 
as I observed the fat round peony buds.
(see the end of this post)

I obsessed on that vision for a while, painting it, writing a poem.
I moved on, but now I'm there again 
looking for meaning in a flower.

This year, I've been observing the peonies closely,
even reading a bit of an old botany text to try to understand.
Again I'm wondering what can I do with it?

Nothing is better than the thing itself.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

wild roses

The beaches of the northeast are often rocky and gray. But these marvelous rugosa roses grow wild in abundance. And they are so fragrant! Imagine the scent of roses mingled with the smells of the sea, blowing in the breeze, while waves crash against the rocks.

In my previous post some of you expressed a preference for simple,
low-petal count roses. The bigger
ones weren't blooming on my recent trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden,
but these sweet ones were, climbing trellises and welcoming bees.

 I have a couple of those in my garden too. They haven't bloomed yet, but here's a picture from another summer. My peonies are still tight buds. I noticed they were sticky, and discovered the most interesting thing in an old botany text--that it is related to the color of the flower. Inside the plant cells are vacuoles filled with cell sap: water, sugar, and salt. The pigment dissolves in the sap. So I imagine the sap acting as a stain, though I'm not sure that's accurate. But what is accurate is that nature is mind-blowing. I try to pause frequently and allow myself to fill with the wonders of nature--flowers, thunderstorms, bird song. It helps me get through the hard parts.

Monday, May 25, 2015

on roses and peonies

I love all flowers equally. So why, I wondered, am I so obsessed with painting roses?
The answer came to me last winter, when I was snowbound and leafing through the David Austen rose catalogue, fantasizing about the rose borders I would plant come spring (didn't happen).

Charlotte: approximately 100 petals. Lady of Shalott: approximately 60 petals. Thomas Becket: approximately 63 petals. (Love the odd number.) Buttercup: approximately 25 petals. Approximate. Variety. Ah-ha.

 Variety is the key. There seem to be infinite variations in the colors, but also the structure of roses, which, for one as vague and messy as myself, is most appealing.

And yes, I do know that these are peonies, not roses. 
I was at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last week, 
the roses were just getting started,
but the peonies were in full glory.
(And aren't their centers interesting?) 

They have some of the same characteristics as roses. 
All those petals! And the way they fold and curve. 
I always think of ball gowns when I see them. Princess dresses.

 No wonder brides love them.

It looks like an individual. Distinctive. A bit shy and flirty.

I've gotten used to the big diva-like ones that are so popular
(hundreds of petals, thousands) 
and it was nice to see some that are a little more demure.

My own peonies are still wrapped up in their tight buds. 
I look at them every day, hoping to catch them unfurling.