Thursday, November 28, 2013

giving thanks

Grateful for flowers & snow, kittens & mittens, books & tea, oranges & toast, home & family. And you dear friends, I am grateful for you.

Wilbur looked up. At the top of the doorway three small webs were being constructed. On each web, working busily was one of Charlotte's daughters. 

"Can I take this to mean," asked Wilbur, "that you have definitely decided to live here in the barn cellar, and that I am going to have three friends?"
"You can indeed," said the spiders.

                                                                       from Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

Monday, November 25, 2013

late November

I've been thinking about seasons and landscapes. 

Saguaros are everywhere in the Tucson area, common as hemlock here in the northeast. Those arms make them seem lifelike, friendly, welcoming.

This one, (which seems to be dying) reminded me of the Straw Man from Wizard of Oz.

Birds nest in holes in their bodies. Their night-blooming flowers, white and yellow, appear in the spring, and their ruby red fruit is edible.

In New Zealand it is spring. Here it is leafless and bitter cold. I read Polar Star, which was fascinating. A fish processing factory on a ship in the Bering Sea. Truly bitter. I will never look at cat food the same way.

We're going to the Catskills for Thanksgiving, and I'm hoping for snow to soften the starkness of November. A roaring fire, icicles. I spend too much time inside in the winter, looking out (or down at my book).

It's deer hunting season, which I used to hate, until I thought about the slow starvation of deer through the long winters (which happens when there are too many). Actually, I still hate it, just a little less.

A year ago we adopted Aji and Masa. They had been sheltering under a porch. Now it seems like they've always been here.

Monday, November 18, 2013


It's been a beautiful autumn, brisk and crisp, leaves from green to gold, scarlet, orange, bronze, glowing yellow. The windows are open and I'm taking long walks and trying to savor, store it up for bleaker days.  I've discovered pink lady apples, (they've edged out honeycrisps as my favorite) and beautiful sunsets from my studio windows: fat pink clouds and streaks of gold over the old mill town of Lowell.

I've been culling my books, pruning, paring, streamlining, saving only the ones who touch my heart.

The rest go to More Than Words  a used books store that trains teens in foster care: "Empowering youth to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business."

You know when you go into someone's house and look at their books, you get to know them? Here are most of my surviving A, B, and start of the C (by author) novels, those that aren't scattered elsewhere or in the country. It's scary how few there are, but it feels good too, that I've passed along the ones I'm pretty sure I won't read again, stripped down to the necessities.

"May something always go unharvested!
 May much stay out of our stated plan,
 Apples or something forgotten and left,
 So smelling their sweetness would be no theft."

from Unharvested, by Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

pine needles, fragments

 I've been painting evergreens, lots of them. A large canvas divided into grids (again) with two or three trees in each square. I started out simple, but I keep adding layers and thinking about all the ways we see them--close up, at a distance, layered with other trees, in the forest, against a house, in the house...soft needles, sharp needles, spruce, pine, fir, cypress, juniper...

When I paint something realistic I'm more interested in the idea of the thing, the sense of it, than the thing itself, so it becomes semi-abstract (or semi-realistic) like a quick glimpse out the window or a memory, or a line in a poem. Edges, fragments.

One of the things I like about painting-- I don't have to think, (beyond simple questions of color and composition). I'm completely absorbed in the moment. Like a dance or jazz--improvisation, meditation.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

houses, Barrio Viejo, Tucson

Ten days back in the cool sensible northeast, and it's just a memory--brilliant heat and colors, the strangeness of cactus, the proliferation of taquerias. The sense of space--I could drive north into the Navajo Nation, the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana; or east into New Mexico and Texas--big open places that make New England seem charming and quaint, which is not a bad thing, just different.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I wish I had a river

I couldn't bear to leave my flowers from Bow Street behind, so they made the four-hour drive to the country with me, listening to podcasts (I'm so modern) The Moth and Judge John Hodgman.

Saturday we had friends over for dinner, great fun except for the part where Bob sliced his finger on the mandolin (onions not music) and had to go to the hospital for repairs.

But we carried on--there was pumpkin soup, gingerbread ice cream and a typically eclectic Catskills mix of folks--half gay, half straight, lives filled with journalism, art, Harley Davidsons, vegetable gardens, the Bronx Zoo, poetry, and a delightful five-year old named Ruby... 

The high hills were frosted with snow, and the raw days of November have arrived.

 I am stockpiling books for the winter. Loved The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt--great writing and great story. I also enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things (Victorian botanists. Lots of moss.) Deep hefty books filled with engaging and eccentric characters--you might want them on your own winter list.

On the way home, the flowers and I listened to music, songs that remind me of my California years.

Friday, November 1, 2013

big iron

Colorful adobe houses. Prickly pear cactus.

Walking across the bridge into Nogales, Mexico.


My favorite things from southern Arizona. I've drafted detailed posts on these subjects, and will surely get back to some of them, but for now a sense of how different it was, strange and wonderful--both desolate and welcoming. 

No picture of how hot (97 degrees in October) and dry (as someone, said, you don't need a towel when you get out of the shower).  The Javelinas and Saguaros, were everywhere (along with roadrunners and rattlesnakes) and so amusing. The border crossing was disturbing, but the best taco of the trip was from a cart in Nogales, Mexico. 

I'm off to green, cool, wet, upstate New York. 
Enjoy your weekend--