Sunday, October 25, 2015

Alice fell down the hole

There I was hovering over this great mole hole in search of the right dirt (for making paint) when I  slipped into the other realm. I suddenly noticed mushrooms all around me. There were tall ones, skinny ones, white ones, yellow ones, orange ones and ones that looked like sponges.  The reptilian brain remembered you could make spore prints at certain times of the year. After a short internet search I was off to the pasture with my school lunch tray papered with my precious kozo paper - smooth side up.  I was glad the cat who has recently adopted me went along. It makes talking out loud more acceptable when bubbles of excitement burble out of me.

Of course this doesn't mean I didn't freak out the new neighbor. He is always watching us. When he saw me slowly make my way over the pasture "deep in search mode" he was on alert. He could not make sense out was why I was carrying a hors d'oeuvre tray and looking down at the ground. His curiosity finally got the better of him so he sent the dog over. Now he had my attention!(due to my new friend the cat) Thanks to inbreeding it was a non-issue between the species. Talk about dumb as dirt! The dog that is and his owner, possibly only a few steps behind. So, he looks at the tray and asks, "them edible?" I respond, "I have no idea. I am simply doing a photo shoot today and later I will be doing spore printing." I am still giggling at how his eyebrows touched his hairline and his mouth agap. When I said I would be using them in my artwork he was totally dumbstruck to the point of sputtering.

I can't imagine what he would say if he knew just the day before I was painting egg yolk and DIRT. I couldn't help but cackle as Yum Yum, the cat and I turned back to our searching. I wished I was wearing my black Halloween cape so I could shout - "And I make brushes out of a horse hair and feathers from birds too! Tell your little dog Toto to watch out - I liked his stiff little whiskers!" cackle-cackle.

 I KNOW, it's a bit absurd but seriously - there is beauty all around us. Just look at these beauties.

 This little bundle looks like chocolate cups filled with white chocolate and sprinkles. Farther down you can see the little eggs. Someone should use this inspiration to do a marzipan Yule log for the holidays!

 I will warn you - this type Boletes, I believe, turn to a withering pile of mush at about the 36th hour of the printmaking process. I kid you not. Future experiments will all be done in a uninhabited distant 'out building'.

 These giant ones below were discovered in the parking strip at Costco not far from the homeless encampment. I hope I didn't ruin someone's weekend plans. I think I have identified them properly as Amanita muscaria. These huge specimens are hallucinogenic, not to mention toxic. No doubt the reason they are so pretty. Can't you hear them saying pick me - pick me? They have white spores making them a little harder to capture, but we will see. Let me assure you I have no intention of eating, indulging or consuming any of these specimens. I am already crazy enough. I will coat any print specimens to assure no transmittal too.

 This little mess is a rusting experiment that I had going at the same time. I have placed paper, paper toweling, metal, tea bags, salt  and leaves into a bundle and placed into a Ziplock bag. I then put it in my press (old laminator).

I call all these little experiments - Field Study. It goes right along with my dirt study and prior to that the weed study. All of it relates to understanding the natural resources on this parcel of land and the connections between the various pieces. All in hopes of developing a better appreciation for the land and those things that live on it and in it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sense of Place

This past month we drove over 5,700 miles through 6 states. As we traveled along I collected surface soils (earth pigments).  The wide open spaces of Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Idaho have a few things in their favor - dirt, rocks, color and sky. I am not sure what will come of all this collecting, recording and experimenting.  I can't help but think these little jars represent "a place" when I read the label I affixed to the jars. Images of those colorful hills come to mind. Here at home in the Northwest, where everything is covered up by plentiful vegetation, the contrast between this place and the places those little jars represent is great. The contrast between 'here' and 'there' is as equally great when it comes to the people, foods, politics and religion.  In fact, I am having a difficult time recalibrating my inner "sense of place" and sense of peace too. I worry for the future of the land.

I have crushed and sorted the material using a mortar and pestle (found at Home Goods)
and sieves from the Asian grocery store - H-Mart.
Yet again more kitchen tools used inappropriately? 

 I am attempting to experiment with various binders - egg, glue, walnut oil and
Gum Arabic (assuming I can somehow get the lid off!)
Will there be vast differences in effect? Adhesion?
How will this 'paint' be used?

 The pigments below were purchased from the Sioux Trading post in Rapid City, S.D. 
They were hand dug from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.  

What will come of all these natural colors?


I did find it hard to journal as the truck bounced along over the back roads
but at least I have clues about our adventure.
(well, I also have 2490 photos, but some taken at 70 miles per hour. I like to test the limits of my IA).
Now we are home with the plumbing acting up, skies grey and the rain pelting down, it is getting harder and harder to remember the 'light'.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A spate of domesticity

The moist scent of pears fills the house as I type with purple fingers. I am on my 4th sauce pot. So far, I have bagged 10 qtrs. of sauce. I have also done up the Italian plums. The best crop we have had in a long time. Four full loads in the 6 tray dehydrator - that should be enough to satisfy my genetic predisposition for preserving food. Well, I might have done more, but the 60 mph winds on Saturday brought it all to a halt. In a blast the fruit was down. Now a blue river runs through the orchard. The rains that accompanied the wind, while appreciated, were not enough to hardly wet the top layer of the ground. We have never witnessed such dry earth here. It has been a hard summer in many regards. Fires, water issues, plant stress and loss not to mention being cranky in 90 degree weather!

An ancient urge has come from the 'genes' to prepare for winter in every way we can. Even if you have to buy 'store bought' fruit. I must say the peaches were perfect and lovely - not like my homely home growns.  The dried fruit will be lovely in my homemade granola come winter.
I don't know if you noticed, but about two weeks ago the season turned. It was quite dramatic here. One morning it was summer and the next day you could feel the change in the air. Autumn was suddenly on its way. We immediately went into action  - Mother Nature had spoken quite clearly - prepare she said. We cleaned off the roof and gutters of the pesky fir needles, cleaned out the chimney and replaced one section of stovepipe. I call this part of the story - The Pride Before The Fall. We were so proud we accomplished so much without the normal fuss. We knew we might have to clean off the roof once more before the winter rains because the trees are exceptionally dry but Saturday's wind storm took us all by surprise. I wish I could say the roof was swept clean by the gusts, but no, the roof is now littered with huge branches and PILES of needles.  Later has come sooner than predicted.
Acceptance.... a word we struggle with. It has been 'that kind' of a summer. The summer of attempting to move forward on plans only to be delayed or thwarted. We did make some progress in reducing, recycling, releasing many of our things. It seemed like the right thing to be doing at this stage in life. (pre-winter (before death) planning so to speak). I was pleased with our results - a fresh and clean office for two. We should be able to share the space at the same time during our retirement years... I hope. This de-cluttering, cleaning, reevaluating did cause some disruption to the whole house system - even to the outbuildings and my studio. Apparently I am a - should I say this out loud? I am a paper hoarder! With the help of Marie Kondo's book - The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was able to address not only my little cache's of paper scraps but to understand my desire to keep them. She calls it life changing. I believe her - it is. Her motto is only keep what you love. Sigh, not only did we do the office, but also my studio.  Time will tell if we are changed people. I hope we are. We still have the rest of the house and the outbuildings to go, but she says it takes about a  year to do the job. It is really a creative process to finding one's true nature. I hope the rest goes easier because I want to get back to my other creative process -  making art.
As I reported in a previous blog I had a book accepted into the "Dirt?  Show".  I am thrilled beyond words - my work is in the same case as one of my favorite on-line artists - Sandy Webster! I love her work! Her entry is a small little book of sublime beauty. She makes her own earth paints and is inspiring in many other ways. Here the postcard announcement and links to the on-line catalog for:
Dirt? Scientists, Book Artists, and Poets Reflect on Soil and Our Environment

In Honor of the 2015 United Nations Year of Soils

An interdisciplinary exhibition featuring natural history specimens, artist books and poems selected from an international call for entries.
Exhibition Dates:August 6, 2015 to December 4, 2015
Collins Library, the University of Puget Sound
Opening Reception:September 10, 2015, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
Collins Library, the University of Puget Sound
Thanks to our community and campus partners:  Slater Museum of Natural History, Department of English, Catharine Gould Chism for the Humanities and Arts, Department of Art, Puget Sound Garden Club, The Evergreen State College, Puget Sound Book Artists, and Tacoma Smelter Plume Project - Dirt Alert! of the Tacoma-Pierce Health Department.
On-Line Catalog:
Events Calendar
  • Exhibition Opening - September 10, 2015 from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. Reception will be held from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Curator Lucia Harrison will then give a lecture entitled “Intersections:  How Artists and Scientists Can Collaborate to Create Environmental Awareness” from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
  • Art/Science Salon - September 17, 2015 from 4:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tour the exhibit and attend a talk by Lucia Harrison (Visual Arts) and Abir Biswas (Geology) from The Evergreen State College.
  • Educator and Student Night - September 24, 2015 from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. Learn about “Staying Healthy with Polluted Soils” with Walt Burdsall from the Tacoma Smelter Plume Project and “Combining Art, Literature and Science in the Classroom” with Lucia Harrison.
  • Earth Pigments: Hands-On Activity & Family Reading Hour - October 3, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m Make acrylic, egg tempera, and watercolor with soil pigments with Curator Lucia Harrison and join members of Puget Sound Greek Life for stories about soil.
  • Dirt? Poets Reflect on Soils and the Environment - October 15, 2015 from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
    A Poetry Reading with Regional Poets featured in the Dirt? Exhibition. A celebration in conjunction with Tacoma Arts Month.
All events are open to the public and will take place in Collins Library, University of Puget Sound.
If you are in the area - do come see the show!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Things happen

I did not know when my husband pulled back into the driveway and made the effort to find me in the studio that the events to follow would touch my heart so much and yet it has.

He said, "bring your camera." He drove me down our long driveway to the road. There on the gravel edge was a young coyote - dead. It hadn't been long dead for the crows had not found it yet. What to do? Back to the garden shed for gloves, shovel and wheel barrow seemed the right step.

As I wheeled my load up the driveway I pondered soft dirt. Perhaps coyote would like to reside next to tiny baby bunny who was found in the driveway two days prior, the second one in two weeks? It occurred to me that perhaps the three had already met? As I set down the barrow I noticed feathers. It looks like it was a more successful catch last night but was a pretty small bird.

There in the shade on our hottest day of the year so far, I dug a shallow grave. I place the head elevated and made a little side cut so the legs could lay naturally. As the somber memorial took place, across the fence there was shouting and great commotion. There were truck sounds and the whirl of a cement truck. While on the other side of the fence it's all about new beginnings. This side all about endings. Coyote was gently place and was told about the others who are buried or remembered here. There's little Boo cat's memorial bell, we never did find her remains. The Celtic marker marks the graves of Miss Frizz and Stitch, our last cats; the 2 infant bunnies; and the shell of a goose egg. Every year the goose pair nest in the maple crotch above our memorial site. Something always robs the nest which makes me sad.


With a few flowers the ceremony comes to a close.
A simple headstone made of the rocks from the hole seem to be okay for now.
I step back and look at the scene. I see the maple is recovering from loosing
a huge branch several years ago.
I am reminded about a poem from Gwen Frostic's book Wing Borne.
May these little ones sustain the maple tree for a little longer.
While I do understand - things happen - I am still sad over the loss. Meanwhile, the noise from across the fence has reached a fevered pitch. Another cement truck has arrived. I realize our acreage may be the last hold out. Apparently, the new way is to cover every square inch of the land with a monster house. My heart breaks witnessing this disconnection with what was considered life. Perhaps that is what I am grieving at this moment for the natural cycle isn't concrete.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Opening Night

Over the course of the last few months I have had the pleasure to work with 3 delightful ladies curating this show. It has been a very positive learning experience. We are looking forward to tonight when we can spend time with our fellow book artists and guests in mutual appreciation of the talent on display. There will be 2 more events in June and July which should be stimulating and inspiring to those who attend as well.

My second ahhhhh during this culminating full moon period -- my entry, "Below the Surface", has been accepted into the Dirt Show at UPS. As I climb the ladder of learning and it gets higher off the ground I feel butterflies in my stomach. I have seen 'exhibitions' from both sides now and am aware and humbled. When one takes a moment to really digest life's offerings from this higher vantage point one can't help but note the cosmic synchronicity, humor and divine love being given. Smile.

Here's a link to the Blurb site showing the catalog for the show!
Lots of wonderful work, for some the  single picture doesn't even begin to convey the depth of the work. So, if you are in the area come see the show!