Monthly Archives: June 2014

Summer Breeze



When the air is hot, and the wind is strong, I am transported back at least four decades.

It is usually only smells that have that power: freshly-cut grass brings me back to Sunday afternoons on Hunt Road, fifty or more years ago; a certain whiff of soap can evoke the spirit of my mother, when I was a small child; sometimes the smell of baby powder lifts me to a time and place when I was a young mother, with small children of my own.

But give me a strong summer breeze, and I am a teen-ager again.

I want to ride in fast cars with all the windows down, music playing at full volume.

I want to head for city lights or country roads, just for the change, the movement and distance.

I want to swim by moonlight, then walk the beach and count the stars.

I want to sleep in a tent open to the moving air.

There is a strong wind blowing today.

Not actually being a teen-ager again, my activities were much more mundane.

I walked the garden this morning, picked radishes and strawberries, and pulled a few weeds.

Went to work at the hardware store.

Picked up a few necessities: dish detergent, dog food, mosquito repellent.

Stopped to say “hello” to Sue, at her gallery.

Washed towels, and hung them on the clothesline.

Pulled a few more weeds in the garden, emptied the kitchen scraps into the compost bin, washed the dishes and tidied the kitchen.

Just a normal day…except for the wind.

That feeling of being at the beginning, with endless possibilities lying ahead…that sense of hope and chance and wonder stayed with me, and kept a smile on my face all day.

Just a normal, exceptional day.

Good things come in on a strong summer breeze!

Me, Getting Older



The poppies burst into bloom two days ago, and have grown more spectacular each day.

In years past, I’ve been able to tell one grandchild or another, “They opened just for you…they’re so happy that you’re here!”

I still have hope that Patrick may make it to Beaver Island this summer, though he will have missed the poppies.

Madeline and Tommy will not be coming this year.

It’s always hard to coordinate, with their activities, their parent’s schedules and my obligations. When everything comes together, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t…well, we must forge on.

Last night, I had a lovely visit over dinner with my sister, Cheryl, and her friend (my friend, too!), Joel.

The night before, I treated myself to a special dinner at home.

Once a week, my friend, Heidi, delivers me a nice round loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread. It’s absolutely delicious, and a great bargain, too. It’s a nice accompaniment to soup or salad, or toasted to dunk in fried egg. It makes the very best grilled cheese sandwich.

That’s what I made for myself, night before last. Grilled sourdough with sharp cheddar cheese, thin slices of heirloom tomato, a couple rounds of red onion and diced avocado. It was a large and messy sandwich, but I enjoyed it tremendously. I ate at the table, with a book as company.

I’m reading an author that is new to me, Donna Leon. Her mysteries are set in modern-day Venice. Her detective is a thoughtful “romantic” who walks the city – from crime scene to station to suspect – to take advantage of the sights and sounds of Venice. So far, very good summer reading.

After dinner, I moved up to the studio. I’m doing prep work for a series of larger collages, so mark-making, clipping and tearing papers, paint washes for possible backgrounds and other research was going on more than actual art-making.

At one point, I stroked my chin…and found something stuck there. I pulled it off. Between that moment and me then extending my hand so that I could examine it, this conversation went on in my head:

“A tick!!

Oh, gross, a TICK!

Sucking my blood!

Now I’ll have to watch for Lyme disease. I wonder what the symptoms are. I’ll have to “Google” it.

I hope I got it all. I heard they bury their head into your skin to suck your blood. Body, arms and legs are on the outside. I heard that sometimes the arms and legs wiggle.

Oh, I am SO grossed out!

Thank god I found it when I did! I wonder how long it has been there. Oh, yuck, what if someone else had noticed it first?!

Thank god for that chin whisker!

I hate that chin whisker so much…it grows so fast, and I forget about it sometimes until I’m somewhere without the right light, the magnifying mirror and a tweezers, so I can’t do anything about it, but I imagine it stands out for everyone else to notice, so then I’m self-conscious about it all day…but, if it weren’t for that chin whisker, I wouldn’t have formed the habit of rubbing my chin like that, and maybe I wouldn’t have found the tick for hours…and it would be fully engorged, more like the size of a raisin (I’ve seen them that size in the  vet clinic) instead of like the size of a…tomato seed…”

And there it was…not a tick.

A tomato seed, from my messy dinner, stuck to my chin.

Crisis averted!

I may have let this pass as one more isolated incident…not anything to be concerned about.

Certainly not an indicator that I am becoming one of “those people” that walk around unaware of food or other matter clinging to hair, skin or clothing.

Until today, three hours in to my shift at the hardware store…when a customer asked why I was wearing a fabric softener sheet on my back.

Evidently, this is me, getting older.

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s not going to be pretty!

Timeout for Art: Money



It was suggested that I could do something creative with my cousin Bob’s money box. Something that would make it stand out, at his farm stand, so that customers could see it. That way, in those few times when Bob isn’t around, they’ll understand that it’s okay to help themselves, and tuck the money into the box.  Prices are posted, along with a list of what’s available.

Sometimes a little project like this is exactly what I need. No money involved, no specific assignment, totally off the path of what I’d normally be doing in the studio. Just fun.

After the Rain (and Rhubarb Crisp)



I made a quick dash out through the garden when the rain stopped today.

My destination was that nice patch of rhubarb against the back fence.

I’m going for family dinner tonight, and offered to bring a rhubarb crisp.

I was anxious, anyway, to see what might’ve sprouted, after two days of thunderstorms.




My first mistake was thinking I could make an outdoor run to the rhubarb patch and back, without dousing up with mosquito repellant.

My second mistake was bringing the camera.

I was out there in prime mosquito territory without defenses, and with electronics to slow me down!

They took full advantage of the situation.

I sustained several bites, and a few minor injuries caused by trying to swat the little devils with my arms full of rhubarb.

Everything looks fresh-washed and bright, though.

Spring was a long time coming, and cool when it arrived, but I have hope that we might still get a growing season in, before autumn’s frost.

I used to make this recipe to serve to my daughters – with milk – for breakfast: sweet, but better than many packaged cereals.

Rhubarb Crisp

  • Combine 1 cup each of flour, brown sugar and oatmeal.
  • Add 1/2 cup cold butter (cut into bits) and 1 large egg; use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the ingredients together.
  • Spread half of this mixture in a buttered baking dish (mine is about 7″ x 12″, but anything close will do).
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon, and a handful of chopped walnuts or almonds, if you like.
  • Cover with four generous cups of cleaned, diced rhubarb.
  • Top with the remaining flour mixture and another sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Bake at 375 for about an hour, or until rhubarb is soft and juicy and topping is crisp.
  • Serve warm with cold milk, yogurt or ice cream.


Scots Pine (Scotch Pine)


continuing the countdown…

Beaver Island Phragmites Control


Scots Pine is an evergreen tree native to Europe and Asia. “Scotch pine has the largest geographic range of any pine, from Great Britain, Ireland, and Portugal east to eastern Siberia. It grows above the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia and south to the Mediterranean”.  Mature stands of Scots Pine found in Europe are often quite beautiful, as the trees have a symmetrical shape (think Christmas tree!) and distinctive red-orange bark.

They rarely do so well here, though. Easily turned by wind and weather, unless grown in the controlled environment of a tree farm, Scots Pine is usually a crooked, misshaped tree.


An invasive, non-native species like Scotch pine is a problem. Not only does it spread into open areas, but it displaces other native species. Scots pine is susceptible to disease and insect problems that can then infect native pines.

One of only three pine species on Beaver Island, Scots…

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Inside, Looking Out



I am making good progress in the garden this year.

I credit the mosquitoes for my devotion.

One does not rub mosquito-repellant oil on ankles, feet and hands, inside ears, on face, neck and scalp, then do an all-over spray of the “deep woods” stuff, add a hat and face-covering bug net…for a short wander through the garden.

The sprays and oils determine that garden soil will soon adhere to clothing and all exposed skin. A few dead mosquitoes may cling where they’ve been swatted. A few minutes of work out in the sunshine, and sweat has added to the mix.

Decked out in this manner, one does not move from gardening to house-keeping or laundry or shopping or (heaven forbid!) a spur-of-the-moment visit with friends.

This “armor” insists that a commitment of time be made.

So, when the intended transplanting, seeding, watering or caging is complete, I look around for something else to do.

There’s always something!

I’ve filled one five gallon bucket after another with weeds. Sometimes I – in archaeology mode – pick out one square meter, drop to my hands and knees, and thoroughly clean that section of unwanted growth. Other times, I choose to tackle one enemy. Sometimes it’s milkweed, which is only an enemy when it invades my garden…which is constant, as it grows prolifically in the fields surrounding it. For the lovely scent of milkweed blossoms, and for the Monarch butterfly, I accept the battle. Sometimes it’s the grasses, easily distinguishable from new seedlings and anything else that belongs there.Sometimes it’s the annoying but easily pulled field sorrel.

Yesterday, it was bladder campion, which is quickly becoming my most despised weed. It has many branches that lay out in every direction, hiding among the leaves of other plants and perennials. Each branch produces flowers with the unique bulbous “bladder” that gives them their name. Each flower produces seeds, and it spreads by roots and seeds. Bladder campion has a deep root, like a carrot, that refuses to pull, and must be dug up. I almost always miss a part of it, either cutting through it with the shovel, or breaking it off when pulling. That ensures that it will come back, as soon as my back is turned. Yesterday, I filled two five-gallon buckets with this weed alone, before I moved on to other things.

Other things: rake leaves away from the fence; move the potter’s wheel; prune the cherry tree; mulch the strawberries; haul weeds and trimmings away. My favorite: check out what’s growing!

Rhubarb is producing again after a nice rain. Asparagus, though mostly gone to seed, still provides a stalk or two for raw munching each day. Strawberries have tiny white fruits that promise to ripen. Raspberries are in bud. The cherry trees are setting fruit. Tomatoes, peppers and marigolds are settling in to their locations. Everything else was planted from seed.

One row of bush beans is up and showing four nice leaves. The second row – planted the same day – hasn’t shown itself yet. I can’t remember if they were older seeds (I should have taken better notes!). Two cucumber hills – of five – have visible sprouts. Only one summer squash plant – of three varieties in six hills – is showing. I have a row of onions up, a scattered row of Swiss chard, and a few spindly spinach leaves starting to show. Winter squash (butternut) has six healthy starts in its old tire planter. I’ll soon have to decide which ones to cull.

The pumpkin (old seeds) didn’t show up at all, so I re-planted each hill with new – “Cinderella’s carriage” – pumpkin seeds. I squeezed in a row of yellow beets, set up bamboo supports and planted pole beans just day-before-yesterday. I put in the last of my seed potatoes a couple days before that.

Today it’s raining.

That’s okay with me.

It’s nice, today, to be inside, looking out.

Timeout for Art: Contemplation



I haven’t spent much time in the studio this last week.

Gardening and lawn work have left me wanting nothing more than a hot soak in the evenings. Afterward, clean pajamas and a good book sound more inviting than paint-spattered sweats, brushes and polymers.

I also spent a little time helping my friend Sue get her gallery ready to open. It’s a huge undertaking, turning rustic cabins that have sat idle all winter into rooms to showcase jewelry, pottery, art, craft and the dearest selection of cards, clothes and handbags. Sue has been at it for a couple weeks now: clearing away dust and cobwebs, setting up displays, hanging and re-hanging so that each piece shows to its best advantage, considering light and shadow, and what paintings will compliment three-dimensional work…it’s exhausting just to think of it.

I gave her a couple hours of my time yesterday, between a cleaning job and a township meeting.

Not enough to make a big difference, but all I had to offer.

It’s both exhilarating and intimidating, seeing new work from other artists.

The color! The light! The brushstrokes!

Time to step back, then, and let it all sink in. Let all the lovely images whirl around until – rather than feeling I have to shrink away or (worse) try to emulate them – I am transformed by them. Like fairy dust, some things will stay with me, others will float away. Maybe the influence won’t be noticeable at all in my work. Perhaps it will change the way I approach a subject, or the colors that I choose, or the all-over feeling of a piece. Maybe it will just lighten my heart a little.

We don’t live in a vacuum. When we fall in love with things that we see, it’s impossible not to be changed. People more knowledgeable than I have contemplated and puzzled over – and still failed to come to any solid conclusions about – originality and influence in art.

I used to give an assignment to freshman art students: choose a piece of art by one artist, and render it in the style of another. It forced a close examination of styles. It also helped to discern boundaries, to think about plagiarism and copying and derivative work.

Myself, I like to take time for contemplation.






I have to say, I’ve been pretty darn productive lately.

Knowing my usual patterns and accomplishments (or lack thereof), I am impressed.

In the ten days so far in the month of June, I’ve undertaken – and finished – more projects than would normally get done in an entire month.

I’ve kept up with all the usual stuff, like laundry and housework, evenings in the studio and my (several)jobs for pay.

In addition, I planted my garden, mowed the lawn, trimmed the pine tree, pruned the shrubs, cut back the roses, trimmed along the walkway, cleaned out several flower beds and dug post holes to move my clothesline poles. Dug up the poles from their current location. Hauled all the branches, trimmings and weeds away.

Maybe even more stuff I just can’t think of right now.

On top of that, I delivered artwork to a gallery that is opening for the season this week, and helped to plan a little after-hours reception.

On a social level, I attended a funeral, wrote two letters, visited with Aunt Katie and had two meals out with friends!

What’s the deal?

Where is all this energy coming from?

What happened to my usual lethargy?

As I was setting out to take the dogs for their walk today, my camera beeped, letting me know the little storage card was full. To be able to take more photos, I was going to have to make room. No problem. I transfer the photos to my computer pretty regularly, so it was just a matter of deleting them from the camera.

So, as we walked along, I clicked through and deleted images taken over the course of the last several months.



Gray trees in a pale landscape.

Gray trees against gray sky.




This was the world I saw, through the many long months of winter.

I looked up from my task to see sunshine weaving through many layers and shades of green. Blue sky! Brown path! Flowers!

I could feel the energy in all the wild color and brightness surrounding me.

That’s where it’s coming from!

Marsh Thistle


Continuing the countdown of invasive species here on Beaver Island…

Beaver Island Phragmites Control


Marsh Thistle.

Cirsium Palustre.

European swamp thistle.

Marsh plume thistle.

Many names for yet another invasive plant species.

This one has been described, “like purple loosestrife, with spines.”

Marsh Thistle is a member of the Aster family with origins in Europe.

It is an erect herbaceous biennial that can grow 3 to 5 feet in height. Once again, I go to the informative brochure, Top Ten Invasive Species, put out by the Beaver Island Association  for their excellent description:

[Marsh Thistle]has a rosette (circle) of leaves at the base that are long, spiny, and deeply lobed. The stem is thick, often reddish, and covered with hairy spines and equally spiny, hairy leaves. The pinkish-purple flowers appear at the top of the stem in a tight cluster, usually in June or July. On Beaver Island this plant is more likely to be found in moist areas than in dry sand.

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Timeout for Art: Abstract



Why do artists choose to work in the abstract?

Why do I?

It’s not that I can’t render objects or scenes realistically, though that is a common misconception.

Usually that idea comes from a lack of understanding.

I often explain that if I want to simply record what I see, a photo would accomplish it faster and likely better.

It goes deeper than that, though.

It goes to using art to communicate.

I’ve always used art as a means of reaching out to others, ever since, as a small child, I found I could impress by coloring in the lines or making a nice picture. As a severely shy introvert, it was a way to invite interaction.

In college, I studied the works of Van Gogh, Gaugin and Cezanne. Realistic, everyday subject matter, but never denying the process or materials. That, in every art form, is what appeals to me. I don’t want a drawing or painting to look like a photograph. Likewise, with clay work, I don’t want it to look machine-made. The magic comes from the obvious use of the medium to render a believable object or image. The hand of the artist should be evident through stylistic choices, brushstrokes, lines, or any number of other ways that allow the creator to show through the work.

I love the intense drawing of Kathe Kollwitz. Her dramatic line, smears and erasures bring her right into the present. When you view her work, she is also in the room. You can sense her strength and feel her despair though she’s been many years gone from this world. Her line is still fresh and immediate. You can see the “bones” of her images:


Kathe Kollwitz, “Outbreak”, 1903

When I went through a particularly difficult time, I imagined communicating my sadness, depression and pain through my work. With Kollwitz as my inspiration, I did a series of dark, graphic drawings.

They were quite beautiful, really, as drawings alone.

The trouble was, I was embarrassed to show them. A private person, I was not comfortable putting all my misery out there for the world to see. Because they were so definitely about my own pain, I was offering nothing to share. Only if someone shared my life experience, would they find something to relate to in these very personal images.

Beautiful or not, they reflected self-indulgent wallowing.

I was not comfortable with that.

After much deep thinking about how I was going about working through my issues, how I wanted to reach out to others and what I wanted to work on in my art, I changed strategies.

I chose a simple triangular shape. It was the shape of the roof line of my parent’s house. My childhood bedroom had been tucked into that upstairs space. With my sister, Brenda, sharing a bed with me and my parents in charge, it was a time in my life when I felt very safe.


This was the feeling I attempted to convey with the colors and textures I added to that basic shape.

It worked!

Open to interpretation (the way a realistic piece rarely is), viewers said, “Oh, it’s like a temple,” or “It feels like a sanctuary.” Other comments included words like “cave” and “safe haven” and “shelter.”

I was ecstatic! By broadening my imagery, I was making it accessible to others, to form their own sense of reality with the work.

By focusing on and working with a healthier, happier time in my life, I was able to work through the hard times, rather than wallow in them.

This felt like true communication – through art – with myself and with others. It was the beginning of a long exploratory journey for me, with shape, color and texture at the center.

Abstraction, for me, is the best form of artistic communication.