Sunday, November 25, 2012

Once Upon A Time

The Sky is Falling
Once upon a time there was a lady who loved to draw.

Jack and the Golden Acorn
And with a click of my boot heels, my last show of the season, Once Upon a Time, has come and gone, and I am now able to catch my breath. The reception was truly magical, more than I could have wished for, with strong sales for which I am extremely grateful. But any artist who lives and breathes their work will tell you, the real highlights of a show, the things you will long remember, usually have nothing to do with the money.

Throughout the day, old friends appeared, some I hadn't seen in a very long time. And I got to meet new people, some of which purchased my work in the past and some that found me for the first time. I spoke with a few visitors who had hesitated about coming to the show because they couldn't afford to make a purchase. I told them how happy I was they chose to spend some time with me because it's about sharing your visions and exchanging ideas, perhaps more so than selling a painting.

Red Was Here
I had the pleasure of meeting a young artist by the name of Zachary and his lovely family. How wonderful that they chose to spend part of Black Friday in an art gallery rather than elbowing their way through a chain department store. Hopefully the variety of art Zachary got to see will stick to his bones long after the season of hype wears off.
Grasshopper and the Ants 

But the most poignant moment of the day came when a long time collector arrived, and I learned his lovely wife had passed away this past spring. I was devastated for him and his family. His wife was a wonderful artist in her own right, and he conveyed to me that she had felt inspired by my work. He told me about a trip they had made to Thailand where she had acquired a lovely silver bracelet which he then presented to me as a gift. I will wear that silver band of memories with honor and loving thoughts of both Nancy and Conrad.

 At the end of the day, I drove home along the back road to watch the autumn sunset over the Albemarle Sound. At my front door, I found my moonflower vine ready to give up the last of its magic to me. The paper pods have now yielded 22 milk-white seeds full of next year's enchanted blooms.

Once upon a time, there was a lady who loved to draw. And she believed in magic.

"The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it."   -  J. M. Barrie

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shelter From the Storms

As I write this entry, the north wind is huffing at the back door and the birds are doing their best to hang onto the feeders on the west side of the house. This past week has been full of unexpected debris to be navigated and swollen creeks to be crossed. I so yearn for normalcy, a quietness to my days, and in another couple of weeks I will have it. This uncertainty has gotten me to thinking about the past hurricane and nor'easter and how those of us on a barrier island survive the storms, those born of nature and the ones that erupt from within.

I've been preparing the yard for the animals that will have to seek shelter from the storms that are already making their presence known. All the feeders have been set out, filled to the brim with sunflower seeds, suets, peanut butter, etc. Water containers are freshly filled and of course Mother Nature provides her own shelters with fallen trees, knotholes and dense shrubbery. But in overdeveloped areas where every wild foot of space now sprouts manicured lawns and palm trees that should not be growing here, the wildlife has more difficulty in finding a hideaway when needed.

At the Crooked Little House, I have left the back of the property in a semi-wild state where I have a large woodpile for shelter. I have also taken logs and made stacks, crisscrossing them so there is space for someone to crawl in between when the north winds howls and slashes rain across the land. I like to reserve some of the trimmed branches from the trees to form a teepee of sorts for the rodents and birds to take shelter.

Leaving the birdhouses out throughout the winter after giving them a thorough cleaning offers up additional shelter as does the chickadee roosting box I put up in the cherry tree. Roosting boxes look like giant birdhouses but provide numerous perches inside for a lot of birds to share. The opening is cut to a specific diameter for a certain bird, just like a birdhouse. Mine is for chickadees since I have so many of them nearby.

Another thing I do is cut openings in the ligustrum bushes, giving easy access to the birds caught in a bad patch of weather. I have seen as many as a dozen assorted birds tucked away inside the big ligustrum by my front door. And hopefully some of these shelters will keep birds safe when my red tailed hawk comes to visit each morning. I struggle with this issue because he too needs nourishment to survive the winter.

And when I've done all I can outside, I remind Buddha and Erb to be grateful they are warm and dry, safe and well fed.

"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
                                                                                                 - Charles Simic

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sweet November

For me, nothing could be further from the truth. I want to like November, the beginning of the holiday season, a chill in the air, the big feast day. But inevitably, every November I am smacked with an illness right in the middle of my two biggest shows of the year, and I end up struggling through my shows with a smile plastered across my grayed face and ending my season feeling drained instead of pleasantly full.

And this year is no different except that instead of a cold or flu, I ended up in the ER with surgery in a couple of weeks. It doesn't matter what happened, that's my personal life. But the real downside, besides the pain of course, is that I've been laid up for a week, unable to hold a pen or pencil long enough to even capture one little sketch. Those that know me know that I am not one who enjoys sitting around doing nothing!

So regretfully, I've resorted to a few entries from past sketchbooks along with some notations. The most I've been able to do this week is watch the birds, and I'll admit, it's been a glorious parade culminating in the return of my hawk. I have no idea if it's the same bird but I like to think so. This guy is so bold. I could stand right at the window, not three feet away from him and he looked straight at me with those piercing eyes, went back to pruning and eventually did an Arnold impersonation insinuating, "I'll be back!"

The Virginia Creeper is now a dusky red running garlands up and down the neighboring trees, and my pyracantha has put out its lovely Christmas-red berries that will delight the birds throughout the season. I managed to make one brief trip outside for a bit of air and poked under a log in the back of the lot finding slugs huddled together liked sleeping children on Christmas Eve. Creepy how my mind works I guess but I found them enchanting, so vulnerable to what could be. But I replaced their wooden blanket and wished them well.

So if you'll excuse me now, back to the couch for me with Joni Mitchell and a good book for the afternoon.

"The Universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
            -   Eden Phillpotts

Sunday, November 4, 2012

 Staying Grounded

When my children were young, we would spend many weekends on Cape Cod at a favorite place called Fort Hill where bunnies outnumbered humans, and you could perch on a huge boulder to take in the sights and sounds and taste of salt air and water. The trails were flanked by large, sculptured trees that inched out tangled roots across the path trying to trip up those daring souls entering their realm. I would tell the boys with whispered breath that after nightfall, the tree roots would snare the feet of those wandering the trail, not heeding the wisdom of leaving the trail before dark, pulling them underground. Childhood is best remembered with a little darkness, a little shiver for the spine, making a story all the more interesting. (Before you judge me, the only thing different about my story is that it is lacking a campfire.)

So when tree roots are placid and dozing during the daylight hours, I love to hunker down nearby and sketch them. One of the best places to see fabulous tree roots is on the Discovery Trail in Nags Head Woods. Nestled in between wood and water, these are fairytale roots linked to enchanted trees. It would not surprise me to catch sight of a fairy or ogre or singing frog among them.

Roots provide several vital functions : storing nutrients, transporting water and minerals and anchoring the tree, keeping it stable during tough weather conditions. Most tree roots (not all), are only 6 to 24 inches below the surface, and the whole root system is 2 to 4 times the diameter of the crown of the tree. Soil compression from humans and erosion can expose the roots, causing injury to this valuable system.

We too have roots with our own vital functions. We need them to tie us to the earth and to each other, giving us something to stand on and supporting us when life threatens to knock us over. My roots run deep, entwining with those near and dear, sometimes across many miles, tapping into those weaker or stronger than my own. I have shared so much with close friends it's hard to tell where mine end and their roots begin.

I work hard at strengthening my roots, nurturing them so I can feel secure when the strong winds blow as they inevitably will. I also know the comfort of being wrapped among other roots when I felt mine were giving way to injury, and I was losing my own balance.

Some trees continue to balance on their roots when all hope seems lost. When that snag finally throws its limbs down in surrender, another seedling is just waiting to stand proudly in its place. For all those whose lives have been shattered from the recent storm, may you come back with stronger roots.

"Don't be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upward."
                                                 - Vladimir Nabokov