Thursday, May 31, 2012

a little love

I have neglected my Massachusetts garden for the past few years. It's mostly trees and shrubs--low-maintenance, but I do have a few beds. This year I am paying more attention, but I really haven't done much--a little feeding, weeding and pruning...and they are looking so much better--more so than can be explained by my occasional ministrations. More than I deserve. Maybe it's all the rain.

I have developed quite a collection of old natural history books, and just listed a couple of them in the Etsy store. It's hard for me to part with books, but really do I need another book of insects? Even if this one was written by the State Entomologist of New York. Will it be one of those books that I will one day miss? Yesterday I was in a used books store looking for a copy of a book I donated to that store.

This one is on rock gardens, published in 1929 by the man in charge of the rock garden at Kew in London. I think it would still be useful to someone who wants to develop a rock garden. The nice part of selling books on Etsy is that the people who buy them love them. I just sold a book called When Patty Went to College, to a woman in Canada who said she'd been looking for it for a long time. So we are both happy, and the book will live on, loved.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

weekend in the Catskills

When I was a child in Maryland, our neighbors, who were Quakers, invited me to an outdoor Meeting, under a tree. I thought of that when searching for a phrase more original than "a religious experience" to describe my time outside this weekend. Admiring wildflowers. Wading in the brook. The roar of the waterfall.

An old tree stump takes on a new life as a home for ferns, moss and insects.

A woodchuck popped her head out of this tangle of fallen tree, saw me and disappeared. She popped back out a few times, while I waited quietly, but not quietly enough apparently, because she always spotted me. Selfishly, I hoped to see her venture out and about.

In the store I was like a school child with spring fever. Now that I've decided to close, it's hard to be there, though I talked to friends and met nice people, including several on their first visit to the Catskills. People tried to talk me out of closing, but it's time, I said. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

do you know where your water comes from?

Did I ever tell you that much of New York City's water comes from the Catskills? It gets there via gravity--basically just rolls downhill. No massive pumps or filtration. It starts with rain and snowmelt.

The water from our waterfall goes into the creek and continues downhill to the Pepacton Reservoir, and from there 130 miles to the city via aqueducts, tunnels and pipes.

 There are all kinds of restrictions on land use, to keep the water pure. New York State and City have bought a lot of the land that wasn't already part of the wilderness park.

See how clear the water is? Our own water comes from a well.

Villages were flooded in order to build two of the reservoirs. You can imagine how difficult and controversial that was. Here is an excerpt from the documentary "Deep Water" that gives a flavor of the history of that massive endeavor. 

As I write this I realize I have no idea where my Massachusetts water comes from, even though I have lived here almost 7 years! I am leaving soon for a 4-day weekend in the Catskills. The Pakatakan Farmers's Market (which I wrote about here) will be open and I hope to get a waffle there.

I hope you have a great weekend!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

book love & postcard fun

A German bird guide. I don't read German,
 but it has more that 50 beautiful color illustrations.
Keep, sell, or give away?
If you read German and like birds, it's yours.

Book bundles in the store.

 Alternate bookcase #1: a 19th century cradle.

Alternate book case # 2: an antique cranberry scoop. 

Listing postcards folders in the Etsy store.
I wrote about my postcard conversion here.

What's your take on the subject of old postcards?

 I see that some clever people are posting two pictures side by side on their blogs. Can anyone tell me how to do that?


Saturday, May 19, 2012

good things

Thursday I visited Shelley at Bow Street Flowers (here). It is exactly what a flower shop should be. Like something out of a story book. I made quite a fool of myself, I was so excited. Pink door! Shabby blue and green tables! Bunnies! Delphiniums! The bunny house! Beauty and whimsy everywhere. I did not want to leave, but Shelley, who is as sweet and kind as you would expect the owner of the perfect flower shop to be, told me I can come back. She gave me a pretty vase filled with lilies of the valley--the fragrance filled my car and now my kitchen. 

This is my favorite time of year. Every evening, I sit on the deck and read and sometimes I look up and contemplate trees, shrubs and flowers, wild rabbits bounding across the yard, bird songs, squirrels chasing, occasional glimpses of chipmunks scampering around the edges of things. And for those moments all seems peaceful and good.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

inside the flower

I have been thinking about nature large and small. A couple of posts ago I wrote that I wished I were a bee or a wee fairy, and could climb inside a flower. Sometimes when I look at the lilies of the valley blooming in my yard, or the last lilacs, I want to inhale them and stay, find "heaven in a wild flower". (see Auguries of Innocence by William Blake here).

I read this Georgia O'Keeffe quote twenty years ago, and never forgot it: 

Everyone has many associations with a flower - the idea of flowers...nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small - we haven't time, and to see it takes time, like to have a friend takes time. So I said to myself -- I'll paint what I see -- what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it -- I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see. 

Pink Tulip, O'Keeffe, 1926 oil on canvas, 36" x 30"

Seeing a flower, finding eternity in a grain of sand the way Blake did, is possible for almost anyone outside of prison. Experiencing nature on a larger scale is not as easy. I've written a bit here about my childhood in the woods of Virginia, the rivers of Maryland, the California mountains and coast--how these environments are integral to who I am. My father worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. I helped develop an environmental education program for a camp and after school program I worked for during college.

That frequent intimate connection with big nature faded when I moved to New York, had children, urban jobs, a complicated life. When we bought our house in the Catskills ten years ago I found it again. We had been looking at charming old farmhouses, but then we saw this waterfall, and time stopped. 

The house is an ugly boxy 80's thing - the interior was entirely painted the color of Silly Putty - every wall, every piece of molding, even the ceiling fans. The kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters are still Silly Putty colored laminate. But houses can be changed, and we fell in love with the waterfall, the creek, the surrounding woods--an entire wilderness environment.

I felt like I belonged there; like my vision had been fuzzy but now it was clear. That I could really see nature again, write about it. Paint. It was wonderful to see my children wading and wandering, exploring without limits.

When I opened the store I had the idea of sharing my love for nature with my customers, recreating it somehow, inside. I've accomplished that to some degree. But now, when I go to the country, I spend most of my time in the store. I take walks around our property, but I don't go hiking or do anything in depth. I don't have the time to look at everything up close, to breathe, to really see it. I want to be outside again. And have time to linger at the farmer's market, try kayaking, explore new places. And maybe get involved in environmental education again.

So I will be closing the store, a bittersweet decision. Sad, but also a relief.

                                                Jack in the Pulpit No. V,  O'Keeffe, 1930, oil on canvas 48" x 30"

"In the woods near two large spring houses, wild Jack-in-the-pulpits grew -- both the large dark ones and the small green ones. The year I painted them I had gone to the lake early in March. Remembering the art lessons of my high school days I looked at the Jacks with great interest. I did a set of six paintings of them. The first painting was very realistic. The last one had only the Jack from the flower."

*Quotations and flower paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hudson, continued

A few of you mentioned the exteriors in the first picture of my last post. Here are a few more buildings in Hudson. They don't do it justice, but will give you an idea of the variety of architecture. The above is on Warren Street, the town's main drag. Orange!

The green building is a tea house. Settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, Hudson became home to New England whalers and sea-faring merchants in the 18th century--they brought their ships up the Hudson River to hide them from the British Navy.

 Many Quakers settled in Hudson. This white building is the Quaker Meeting house. The other is the guest house I wrote about in my last post. The houses in the following pictures are within a block of it.

In the 19th century knitting mills and other small industries flourished, but by the end of that century Hudson, like so many industrial towns, began a steep decline.

It's a pretty 2-hour train ride along the Hudson River from Manhattan to Hudson, and in the 80's gentrification began. Antique dealers started setting up shop in the 90's, and now there are an abundance of them, as well as plenty of eating establishments and two bookstores, but it's still a little funky and run down.

For me, it's at that perfect stage of gentrification--not too busy or upscale, but vital and interesting.

  I was delighted to discover a route from my home in Massachusetts to the Catskills that takes me right through Hudson. I'll be going back soon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

a bee or a wee fairy

Last week on my way to the Catskills I spent a night in the 18th century river town of Hudson, New York. My son came down from Albany for dinner, and I stayed at a guest house, the dark grey building in the picture above. The small white one is the Quaker Meeting House. It looks very staid from the front,

but I perched in the treetop suite, behind the main building.

I read on my little porch, and Emma the dog visited me.

It could have been furnished by my store.

I fell flat out in love with this marvelous little garden room/porch.

It is the time of year when I wish I was a bee, flitting from flower to flower. Or a wee fairy--I would climb inside a lily of the valley. There is a big robin who splashes daily in my bird bath. We are becoming friends.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

weekend in the Catskills

Quiet in the store, but it looked nice. 
There were festivities.
An opening in the art gallery next door;
  a Cinco de Mayo birthday party which involved 
huge quantities of Mexican food, 
laughter, carrot cake, four French bulldogs and a giant full moon. 
Fresh eggs for breakfast. Blueberry muffins. 
A waterfall. Forget Me Nots galore.