Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bush Honeysuckle


Sometimes, when I’m not writing my own blog, I am spreading the word on invasive species in this area through this blog

Beaver Island Phragmites Control



I wish this plant looked a little less attractive.

It seems to have a lot going for it.

Bush honeysuckle is a nice looking plant: its glossy leaves are some of the first to emerge in the Spring, and hang on well into the Fall. Attractive, scented flowers blossom in June, followed by edible berries that remain on the bushes through the Winter. It can tolerate some shade, and its root system can help to stop erosion. No wonder they were deliberately and thoughtfully introduced to this country!

Sounds good, right?

In fact, of the four types of bush honeysuckle that grow on Beaver Island, two are native. On the surface, they are almost indistinguishable from the two types that we label “invasive.”

So, what’s the difference?

Not all non-native species are “invasive.” My hyacinths are not taking over the yard, no matter how much I encourage it. Many plants…

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Happy Birthday to Tommy!



It seems I’m in my usual rush at “Tommy’s Birthday Time”. It seems that he – with his birthday in the Springtime – hears more excuses than good wishes from his Grandma Cindy!

This year is no exception.

I have a plane to catch at eleven AM today, to travel downstate for a funeral tomorrow and haven’t packed yet!

I have no time to relate a good story or tell what a wonderful (12 year old!) boy he is.

Time only, now, for a quick photo (that comes with its own sweet memory) and lots of love going his way (today and every day!).

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Timeout for Art: Clay



It’s Thursday!

Yesterday was after-school art.

We made paper!

For that lesson, I brought in a beautiful paper wasp nest (I should know the specifics on type of wasp and how the paper is made, and what precisely the ingredients used are…but I don’t know, and don’t have time to research it), samples of paper formed by seaweed washing up over the stones at Iron Ore Bay at the south end of Beaver Island, and many paper samples made from ingredients ranging from banana peels to tulip petals and leaves.


We talked about the need for paper and the many things that were used for writing on – from clay tablets to shields to walls and towers built just to record a good story on – before we had paper, and the history and development of paper-making. We made our papers from pulp  made from recycled junk mail, with additions of their choosing. I offered flowers – daylily, sedum and marigold – saved in my freezer for this purpose, pencil shavings, straw, yarn and grape skins. Each batch got a good shake of baby powder, just to make it smell good. It was a fun day.

While digging out my paper samples, I came across a stack of photos from my studio at Michigan State University.

My concentration was in ceramics; my focus was on large scale ceramic sculpture.

In whatever medium I am working in, I like to allow the materials to “have their way.” Pencil should look like pencil and paint like paint, in my mind. I appreciate those who can make a painting look just like a photograph, but that’s not for me.

In clay, I worked with wet clay, squeezed – not rolled – into coils, and let the shapes develop organically. I set it up for surprises to happen during the firing process. I planned for fissures and separations, and happily filled them with mortar and hand-made beads of silver solder.

I’m short on time this morning, so will just offer a few pictures.








Moment to Moment to Living in the Moment



I’ve been taking quite a few pictures lately, that record the slow crawl into Spring on Beaver Island this year.

The snow is receding, no doubt, but still blankets half of my garden and much of my yard. Temperatures are rising, but the dampness creates a chill. It’s not time, yet, to turn off the heaters.The ice in Lake Michigan is still posing a challenge; our ferry boat  just announced a further delay of their first trip. Flooding and freezing are still creating drainage problems. Every day there are more signs of Spring; every day there are a dozens reminders of the Winter that just doesn’t want to let go.

I am watching…and waiting.

Too much waiting leads to discouragement.

I’ve written about it before.

Waiting is that limbo state that anticipates but doesn’t offer anything. It delays and postpones. I fall easily into it at any time of year; this particular Spring is only one example.

Waiting becomes the place I am in.

When the wait is over, something will happen.

When the house warms up, it will be easier to finish all of my Spring projects.

When the snow and ice are gone, I’ll be able to get back into the garden.

When the snow melts and the water recedes, I’ll be able to get back into a good walking regimen.

When it gets warmer, I’ll feel more like eating lighter and healthier meals.


What does that leave, right now? This lumpy, lazy, slothful person waiting for the elusive “when!”

No wonder I’m discouraged!

This is an old battle, with me. I’m a procrastinator by nature and have sufficient skills in logic to justify and explain.

I’m also too smart to be misled by my “logic” for long.

Then, it’s time to dust myself off and give myself a good stern “talking-to”. It’s time to rise up out of my slump and get busy. Time to appreciate each moment , frosty or not. Time to mark accomplishments, not just days off the calendar.

Life is too short, really, for waiting.

Timeout for Art: Plants



Plants, it seems, would always be a good subject for sketching.

They don’t squirm, change expression, or walk away.

As I looked through these sketches, though, I notice distinct differences.

When I am drawing plants as a part of a landscape or a larger picture, my marks are tentative and sketchy.


When my subject is an individual plant, there is greater confidence in my line quality, and even in the clearer distribution of shadows.



When I first started taking drawing classes, I was totally inhibited by the large (18″x24″) paper. My drawings were small, centrally located things, shying away from those distant edges. But, with practice, I learned to “see” larger, and to draw right to and beyond the edges of the paper. I still draw beyond the borders, but with time and space constraints, my drawings have gotten much smaller


I do most of my sketching inside, and most of my subjects are small.

Clearly, that is where my strength lies, at this time.


Timeout for Art: Animals



I love to watch courtroom artists, and I greatly appreciate their work. They have to be fast in setting the scene, making the characters identifiable and capturing the mood of the moment. Artists who do urban sketching on subways and buses face similar issues, though without the pressure to have their subjects be recognizable. The closest I come to either of these challenges is in my attempt to draw animals.

Animals make good subjects for sketching, as they force your focus. You cannot count on them to hold their pose; they cannot be convinced not to stretch…or roll…or move away entirely.

You have to be quick, to capture the moment.

Cats, I’ve found, are the best models. Maybe not all cats, but mine, who always tended toward regal laziness. Old dogs are next. I have tried, tried, tried to capture Rosa Parks’s sweet disposition in a drawing, but she’s just too lively. Clover, though older, thinks that whenever I am watching her that intently, it’s because I want her to come kiss me all over my face. Neither one makes a good subject.

So, today, I offer sketches of animals…mostly cats.

Because I pulled these from my sketchbooks, the drawings are accompanied, sometimes, by bits of inspirational quotes and poetry. I like the way the words play against the drawings.








Spring is Here!



Can you see it?

You have to really look for it, out here on the Fox Lake Road.

My yard still holds much evidence of the long winter.


But this is Spring!

I can see it in the bare-earth muddy tracks in the driveway, that continue down my road and the next two…but then open on to the King’s Highway that is (I swear it!) bare pavement for the first time in months.

Inside, the heater is taking a rest, some days, when the sunshine warms the living space (I did not lose my home to the cost of heat!). A gigantic chunk  of snow and ice slid off my roof the other day (and the roof, now exposed, seems to be still intact!).

There is a small patch of bare ground outside the back door, reminding me of the chores left undone when cold winds and early snow interrupted. I could rake that little chunk of yard, and pick up the twigs, and have that one bit clear and all ready for the season.

If I look closely, in south-side corners and full-sun edges, I can see the daffodils pushing up through the frosty soil. I can see the leathery leaves, now, of five Rhododendrons that appear to have survived the Winter. My little cherry trees are loosening their branches, trapped so long under the deep snow, and lifting them up to the sunshine.

I have seen the robins outside my window. There is an old rotted log – too large to move – that sits at the edge of the yard. It must have insects in it, because the birds find it very attractive. Birdsong enlivens the evening air.

And the dogs know. The smells of Spring are out there, and they want to explore. A chipmunk (forbidden!) has started making his rounds of the yard and garden. The soup-like consistency of the snow will no longer support the weight of even my smallest dog, making chase impossible. Ah, well, there is a spot on the back porch where the snow has melted and the morning sun makes it warm enough for a dog’s nap.

And I know. From the lightening of my mood to the drag in my ambition, I recognize Spring Fever.

My friend Kevin (whose great blog is <>) said truly, “after all, little darling, in the words of Lennon, Harrison and McCartney, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.”

Finally, Spring is here!

Timeout for Art: People



I first became interested in art from watching my mother draw.

Mom sketched beautiful women, reminiscent of the “pin-up girls” of World War II. The hair was perfect, the lips gleamed and she could magically make the eyes seem to sparkle. I couldn’t get enough! I wanted to be able to do that!

Though my art has gone down a dozen different paths away from that early obsession, I still enjoy sketching people. I love life drawing, but can rarely get a subject to sit still long enough. I often sketch from photographs these days. Sometimes I’ll take a magazine and page through for a “model,” and use whatever materials I have at hand. A pencil sketch has an entirely different “mood” than a charcoal drawing. Colored pencils demand a slower pace, which is reflected in the finished work.





Isn’t this a familiar face?

The Continuing Kitchen Shelf Saga



I was going to title this “The Never Ending Kitchen Shelf Saga,” but I’m feeling optimistic today.

I have to say, I like the way the shelves look.

It’s nice to have all of my cookbooks and garden books together, easily accessible and sorted by category. I’ve gotten my jars of beans and grains off the counter and onto the shelves, too. Some baskets hold small books and pamphlets; others keep medicines, vitamins, sunscreen and insect repellants close at hand. A few plants and a couple candles soften the edges.

If I have a superpower, it is the knack for arranging shelves.

If I have a “green Kryptonite”-like weakness, it is the absolute inability to sort. Every aspect of it stymies me…from deciding on categories for dozens of disparate objects to not being able to discount anything as “useless”…which is one reason this project, at times, seems like it will never end.

Fifty years ago, when my sister Brenda and I were – every couple weeks or so – forced to clean our room, this short-coming became evident.

Brenda’s tactic was to sweep everything into one (huge) mound in the middle of the floor. The next step was to yank all of the dirty clothes out of that pile and put them in the baskets downstairs. Next, pick out all the Barbie dolls, their clothing and accessories…put them away. Next, game pieces, puzzle pieces and cards. Continue, until all that was left got swept into the dustpan  and thrown away. She had a plan, and it worked!

I don’t know why it was so disagreeable to me…or why I was so disagreeable about the method.

I remember feeling absolutely appalled at the idea of sweeping everything together, where all of our belongings would mix and mingle. It seemed like we were making an even greater mess. I couldn’t stand it…no matter how many times she proved to me that it worked.

My method, contrarily, was to pick up one random object, look at it, think about it, adjust it if necessary (perhaps the doll should be wearing the blue dress instead of the green?) and finally put it in its place. Which, if the “place”  was not in order, would then lead to another distraction, and another…forever.

I still use the same tactics!

I have four kitchen drawers to clean out and put into use. They have spent the last two or three years lazily picking up bits of flotsam and jetsam that didn’t have a specific place. Now, since I have taken the large 32-drawer cabinet out of the kitchen, I really need that drawer space. Those four drawers have to go back to work!

So, I’ve been emptying and sorting.

I have a pile of dog collars: two that no longer fit Rosa Parks, one that fits her but that she only wears when I walk her on a leash and one that belonged to my old dog, Maggie, who left this world more than three years ago.

I have two mounds of art-related objects. One contains a roll of mounting tape, a package of glazier’s points, a couple screw eyes, a few oil pastels, a handful of paintbrushes and other miscellaneous objects that actually have places in the studio. The other contains bits of foil and papers that I found or saved, to use in collage someday.

Christmas related items: one hand-made ornament that needs to be glued back together, ornament hooks, ribbon and four little packages of tiny replacement bulbs for Christmas lights (though I haven’t decorated for Christmas in years!).

I have quite an accumulation of hooks, from large decorative ones – for coats or robes – to the tiniest cup hooks.

I have an extensive collection of batteries, it seems, plus two flashlights, an alarm clock and a disposable camera.

I have an inordinate amount of pest-related products: simple mouse traps and plug in devises to discourage rodents, several battery-powered devises to keep mosquitoes away and three small bottles of ant killer.

Now, I have four empty drawers, cleaned and paper-lined, ready to be put back into use.

I have all of my collections laid out on the counter, waiting for decisions to be made. What gets moved to a new location? What can be given away? What gets tossed?

I just needed a break, before I got into all of that!