Monday, July 30, 2012

flowers in the house

 Technically it's not even mid-summer, but it feels like it. My garden is a little raggedy, though the hydrangeas are calm and reliable. Some of the flowers look like they spent too much time on the beach, if you know what I mean.

I stopped at a farm stand on my drive home from the Catskills and got zinnias, which I love for their cheerful, unsubtle colors.

 Also sunflowers. Nothing subtle about them. Not having a container the size of a garbage can, I cut three feet off the stem. Flower people, what do you do with sunflowers?

I love them, but they look a little goofy close up...

Visit Small but Charming to enjoy flowers in the house from all corners of the globe.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

this voice of the cool and the dusk

I bought two little green books today, at my local antiques collective.  Nature's Diary, by Francis H. Allen, was published in 1897. 

There is an entry for each day of the year. On the left page are two dates with quotations. The dates on the right note birds or flowers one might expect to see, and there is space for the owner to make notes. In the preface the author states "I have tried to have each selection fit its day as exactly as possible... Every selection has passed a rigid examination upon two points,--scientific accuracy and poetic value,-- so that neither requirement has been sacrificed to the other."

 I love the seriousness and care with which he approached this endeavor.

A closer look at today's entry. Apparently the whip-poor-will should be out and about. I have strong memories of them from my childhood, but not so much in recent years. Edith M. Thomas calls the whip-poor-will "this voice of the cool and the dusk, this cloistered melodist..." Poetic indeed.

Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music, by F. Schuyler Mathews--bird lover, composer, and artist, was originally published in 1904; my edition is 1921. Mathews took it upon himself to transcribe the songs of birds, to help watchers identify them. What an undertaking! There's a nice little NPR piece about it that you can listen to here. It includes a playing of Mathew's whip-poor-will notations on the flute, as well as a recording of the bird with the onomatopoeic name. About the whip-poor-will Mathews writes: "There is something uncanny about the nocturnal bird and his strange song...The song is weird, there is nothing like it in all the category of Nature's music..."

I am going to the Catskills tomorrow, and will be listening for whip-poor-wills. Do you ever hear them?

p.s. See Karen's comment below about how both books can be uploaded from Googlebooks, for free.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

one clover and a bee

Remember our frog pond in the Catskills? (I wrote about it here.)  There's a word used to describe pond life, succession, that in this context means the progressive replacement of one biological community by another. When a new pond forms naturally, plant life grows as wind and birds carry seeds. Those plants are food for insects, frogs, and turtles that come upon them in their travels, and stay. The pond habitat is dynamic, constantly changing. Ponds are shallow enough that rooted plants can grow in them, and eventually they will be covered with vegetation, and, over hundreds of years, become marshland and then grassy prairie or forest. Or, as Emily Dickinson wrote:

   To make a prairie it takes a clover 
   and one bee,
   One clover, and a bee,
   and revery.
   The revery alone will do
   if bees are few.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

this rough magic

my store
I've gotten used to Thursday being the day I would puzzle over what to take to the Catskills for the weekend, how much I could fit in the car, if I could get enough out of the garage to justify a visit to my favorite auction house. But I'm not going to the Catskills this weekend. Everything in the store is on sale as I want it empty by the end of August. Being there now a bittersweet experience. I've had great conversations with people I've made friends with through the store, who stop by to see what's going on, but it's also hard to see the undoing of the space I created.

our waterfall in the Catskills
I am thinking about what I'll do on my weekends there once the store is closed. Build a studio, or maybe a gazebo (out of reclaimed wood of course)? Join a hiking club? Learn to kayak? Work my way through the Great Books?

stone wall, Catskills
I always have a half dozen projects going, but they involve reading, writing, art, not much movement. I'd like to do something that involves my whole body, and the beauty of the Catskills. Build a stone wall? Create sculptures in the woods?

the waterfall
I am worrying about the droughts and climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert's piece in the New Yorker, here, is worth reading. Even if you aren't in the mood to read about global warming, read the first paragraph about corn sex. I never know the purpose of corn silks. Amazing!

Cape Cod
On a lighter note, my blogger friend Anne just opened an Etsy store, Henscratcher, as a venue for her hand-painted signs and vintage finds. She is giving away a charming customized chalkboard sign. Check it out on her blog, here. And, because so many of you are readers and I love recommending books, I'm going to start listing what I'm reading--borrowing this idea from Monica at Ink + Chai.

reading: The Last Best LeagueThis Rough Magic, and A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cape Cod weekend

A cottage by the sea.

Pink roses everywhere.

That is the house I dream of.

The air smells of wild roses, hydrangeas, and salt air.

A day at the beach segued to an evening Cape League baseball game. (A league of the best college players, memorialized in the wonderful book, The Last Best League.) The stands were full; suntan lotion, bug spray and grilling hotdogs threaded the scent of the ocean breeze. Children and dogs ran around, cell phones were ignored and the crowd stayed until the very end, because it was that rare kind of evening, one you want to remember when the phones start ringing again.

 The ocean was everything it's supposed to be.

I walked for hours, and was rewarded by the playful antics of dozens of seals. My little pocket camera wasn't up to the task, but trust me, they were captivating. If you click on the picture you'll get a better glimpse of one of them.

Is there a house you dream of?


Thursday, July 12, 2012

summer reading

I've recently read two good novels--and enjoyed them so much that the next books I read will be by the same authors. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Well-written, warm, amusing--back and forth between 1950's Italy and present day Hollywood. I'll read his previous book, The Financial Lives of Poets (great title!) soon.

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons was recommended to me by a bookstore owner, and it is a rich old-fashioned novel--World War II, England, Vienna, romance, heartbreak...It takes place in Dorset and now I want to go there--the book is filled with wonderful imagery of the beauty of the place. Such as:
 "I loved the wildness and the salt water cracking against the black rocks and the greylag geese crying overhead and the sea pinks reaching over the cliff tops and the adders basking on the heath, the song of the fishermen and the rainbow bellies of the mackerel, the silent church and the glimpse of Portland in the mist and the way the weather was changeable as a Mozart opera..."

I am going to the Cape* this weekend and taking her other book Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English.

 * People in the know say The Cape, and not Cape Cod, in the way that in New Jersey you don't say, I'm going to the beach, you say, I'm going down the shore.

I bought the chair in the picture above at an auction this week, and I'm keeping it! That is a glimpse of my guest room, and the colors I love--beach colors.

This glorious trumpetvine now grows above the roofline and is thick with flowers. Rabbits come and eat the fallen ones. There is one big old rabbit who lets us walk right up to him. I impulsively bought a biography of Beatrix Potter, but it is very large and I'm having trouble getting into it. I should just read her books again--spend time with Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Benjamin Bunny. And of course, Peter Rabbit.

Enjoy your weekend.

x Jen

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


 When I studied art in college we had to paint big.
 Now I want to paint small. 
For now, quick sketches.
Why do I want to paint something as vast as the sea small as a paperback?

 It's all an excuse to mix colors.

I imagine gardens and oceans, 

 succinct as haiku.

Monday, July 9, 2012

the critique

I've started painting again. Tiny seascapes. I'll show you soon. Maybe. For now I want to share these pictures I got at an auction a while back. They've been sitting in the store for ages. They are framed critiques of studies done by a Miss Hildebrand.

The upper left is a photograph of the scene she painted. If you click on the picture it should enlarge enough for you to read the comments.

I wonder if Miss Hildebrand had them framed? Or her parents/children/husband/lover?

They are beautifully framed. Lovingly. I wish I knew the back story.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Catskill frog pond

The old frog pond was little more than a ditch, dug when the driveway was built. After a flood several years ago, we had to rebuild a large section of the driveway, and where earth and rocks were taken for that purpose, a new pond formed, organically.

We weren't aware that it was happening, but frogs and dragonflies and fireflies found it, and flowers grew around it.

 A new ecosystem grew.

This week, among the abundance of daisies I found a lone foxglove.

The water in the nearby brook runs clear, but the frog pond relies on rain, and is filled with strange clumps of matter in various stages of growth and decay--good camouflage for a frog resting on a stick.

I wrote a bit about frogs and ecology here. I am always relieved when I walk to the pond, and find that the frogs are still there.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

pinup potholders

I'm back from the Catskills, and I took bundles of pictures of water, rocks, wildflowers, frogs, beetles...but I know what you really want to see is the potholders!

 I've given you a glimpse of them before,

and due to your strong interest in them (so many comments!) I took pictures of all of them. They were such a hit in the store the last time I got them, that I had to get one more batch before I close.

Happy Independence Day!

They are made by Meagan, who lives near Boston and who has an Etsy Store, Fussy Gussy (here) where she sometimes sells the potholders, and other fun things. And for you crafty types, she sells the fabrics here.

Enjoy them. I'll be back with rocks and water soon!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Catskill summer

The frogs twang like out of tune guitars, and everything is green. Our house is full, Bob made Sangria with lots of fruit, the boys cooked, the day was hot, the night is chilly. After dark I took a flashlight outside and read--it smells like water and forest, and the sound of the waterfall is soothing as ocean waves. Luke took a night walk and saw a beaver, and I thought about finding a sleeping bag and staying the night under the stars.