Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Leatherleaf Mahonia

My front flower bed has been taken over by Soloman's seal which makes it virtually impossible to walk in or weed that bed.  In the corner of this bed lives a Mahonia plant that I hardly ever notice because it is next to a dogwood and hidden by all sorts of treachery.  But a couple weeks ago I decided to try and clear some of the incredibly prolific Soloman's seal and this is what I found.

I have always loved the beautiful soft green-blue berries on this plant but I never noticed the striking orange color of the leaves.  The contrast between both color and texture of berries and leaves is a feast for the eyes.

And the red stems are also interesting.  Their shape in the above photo reminds me of a thin, red, furry spider.  And in case you thought this plant couldn't get any more showy, check out the deep blue-purple color the berries will become in a month. 

But beauty often comes with a price and, although the plant is beautiful, I just realized it is considered invasive.  I know for sure this plant is a Mahonia, but there is Mahonia aquifolium and Mahonia bealeiM. aquifolium is native but M. bealei is from China.  My suspicion is this is the invasive one. If anyone out there can confirm this leave me a comment. 

Before I realized this plant is banned in several states I had already chosen this quote because this song popped in my head when I saw these I am going to leave you with it anyway.

"Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe."
-Katy Perry

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wabi-sabi Peony

I love peonies at all stages of their life cycle.  George was asking me why my top two photos (above and below) were photos of a peony when it was past its prime.  I thought about it and it comes back to the idea of wabi-sabi.  It is easy to appreciate a flower when it is in full bloom.  Everything is perky, erect, saturated and striving toward the sun.  But after that, the stamens relax, the colors fade, and the inner parts, once hidden by all the fanfare, are revealed.  And if you keep watching you realize these inner parts are quite spectacular and hide the plant's most precious cargo.  I don't believe there could be a more beautiful metaphor for our lives than that.

But to be fair...all the stages are beautiful and I wanted an excuse to post all my favorite peony photos from this year. So here are a few more, including an amazing, gigantic, yellow Itoh peony my mom bought me last year plus a few of the old standards.

As I was looking around for wabi-sabi quotes I found this one by Amy Krouse Rosenthal that I thought captured the moment perfectly:

"I was noticing how more and more I was feeling both happy (acutally, content) and sad at the same time.  Happiness always seemed to be tinged with sadness, and strangely, vice versa.  I started asking around if anyone knew a word that meant happy and sad at the same time.  ...It is feeling content, peaceful, hyper-aware of loss, in awe, perfectly, gently happy/sad.  What is the word?"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Swiss Chalet House Sketch - Cincinnati

This weekend my friend Christina and I sketched a house in my neighborhood.  This style of architecture is called "Swiss Chalet" and there are a number of them in Cincinnati.  They were built around the turn of the century and are characterized by "low pitched roofs with front gables and wide eaves with decorative brackets." You can see some amazing examples here.  I LOVE the colorful details and when I imagine myself living in one I picture myself in the alps dressed in full folk costume swinging a bucket of freshly squeezed milk. 

My friend Christina is truly an amazing artist.  I have learned so much from sketching with her.  She was almost done inking hers when I just finished my pencil sketch.  You can see her sketch is one of my favorite sketches of hers.  Thank you Christina for getting me outside to sketch!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spruce Pollen Cones

There is one street in my neighborhood where it has become my practice to try to be present the whole length of the street.  I do this in different ways.  I usually try to clear my mind, but more often I try to focus my attention on my surroundings.  Often I listen to whatever sounds might come my way... or I feel the wind on my cheek. 

About a month ago I was walking like this when a little bit of color caught my eye as I walked under this spruce tree.  When I looked up I was astonished to find these lovely red pollen cones at the ends of all the branches.  It was hard to take a picture because the wind was pushing them to and fro and I stood there mesmerized by their movement. 

When I found this Mary Oliver quote I thought it a perfect description not only of my experience, but of this entire blog. And I thought as long as you all will keep reading I will never tire of telling you about it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Star Wars Linocut - Max Rebo

This Wednesday I am participating in a Star Wars Tribute Show called "May the Fourth Be With You." I made a Max Rebo linocut for the show.  If you don't remember, Max Rebo was a member of a 12-person band that played at Jabba the Hutt's palace on the planet Tattooine.  If you are interested in this character there is more information than you ever could imaging on this website.  Apparently Max had quite an appetite and he signed a contract where Jabba paid the band with an unlimited supply of food which made the other band members mad.

My incredibly talented friends Christina Wald and Kevin Necessary organized the show.  You can see the details in the poster Kevin created below (click to enlarge). If you are in Cincinnati, stop by the Brew House tomorrow night at 6 for our opening party!  There will be droids!

I also took a few process shots while making my linocut.

I printed 8 copies but only had 6 turn out in the end.  I lost one to blurriness and one to my fine lines getting clogged.

One of the fun things they asked us to do for the show was to write a short summary of why Star Wars was important to us and to choose our favorite quote.  Here is what I wrote:

My childhood is filled with memories from the Star Wars trilogy.  I remember hiding small toys under the front hood of our Star Wars landspeeder, shoving action figures in the holes of our maple tree, and being annoyed when I thought I lost Yoda’s staff.  I also remember the amazing Halloween costumes my mom made us.  My brother had a full-body furry Chewbacca costume where he looked out the mouth and my sister twisted her long hair into princess Leia’s side buns.  One year my brother and I were matching Jawa’s with costumes made of itchy burlap.  The magic of those years would not have been the same without Star Wars and whenever I hear the first few notes of the soundtrack I am transported to a galaxy far, far away.

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. “ - Yoda

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Creative Juice Spring Retreat

Last weekend I attended the Creative Juice Retreat in Adams County.  Creative Juice is a group of freelancers that meets once a week to discuss creative endeavors and last week we took a trip to the country to decompress, hike, create, and relax. 

The trip was amazing and I can't put into words how much I love these women.  As I started looking through the photos, words kept popping into my head to describe both the weekend and the women so I added them to the photos.

On our trip we enjoyed hiking and exploring the property on the farm.

It was also a weekend for crafting and creating.  Terri brought these beautiful cigar boxes to make plein air pochade boxes. 

We also made ribbon flowers while chatting about boys.  There is nothing better than having good conversation while your hands are busy creating.

On our hikes we collected specimens for still life watercolors, but  I ended up drawing Christina while she sketched me.  You can see my sketch below and Christina's sketch here.

These weekends are also known for good eating.  Below you can see the beautiful kebabs Christina made for our dinner.

I had to include this short video of the tadpoles we found.  There were so many of them and just staring down at them moving around and gulping for air filled me with awe, wonder and a sense of being alive.

We weren't sure if it was still morel season, but Margot-the-Morel-Finder had keen eyes and found two.  Terri, who used to be a personal chef, chopped them and sauteed them in butter and they were delicious!

Every time I have ever gone on a retreat I am amazed at the deep connections that are possible to make with this world, with others, and with myself. The experience can be life changing if you allow it.

“What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin – to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

I know it because I feel so marvelous myself most of the time. And when I feel that way everybody seems marvelous… everybody and everything… even pebbles and pieces of cardboard… a match stick lying in the gutter… anything… a goat’s beard, if you like. That’s what I want to write about… and then we’re all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is.” -Henry Miller

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wool Felted Orange Tabby Cat

About a month ago my friend Margot came over and we had a night of crafting, chit chat, and video watching.  At first I worked on a linocut project but then Margot handed me a fistful of wool and said, "Make something!".  I had never done needle felting before and she taught me how to repeatedly jab a barred needle into the felt to form it and make it harder.  It is awesome because you can add colors and other forms to your object easily by just jabbing the needle to make the connection. 

At first my attempts looked like a sad white embryonic form.  But as I kept working it and adding color it began to take shape. I even added stripes a couple weeks later after my friend Sari loaned me some darker orange wool.  You can see my inspiration below.

This photo shows the stripes I added to the back of the head.

One day George came down the stairs to find Otus batting something around.  He thought it was just one of the usual "mousy mouses" that frequently lie about the house mostly abandoned until someone wants attention.  But when he looked closer he found Otus had claimed my wool felted masterpiece as a toy!  Once he pried it out of Otus's little paws he could see it was mostly intact but with a bit of orange missing.  Repair work was done and we now keep our wooly orange boy up high out of reach and this makes someone sad and bored.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Goodness me!

I have been tired lately....but the other day I decided to take a short walk around the block.  As I was coming down the hill back towards my house I had the most beautiful thought that the energy from every single red bud bloom was filling me up.  It felt wonderful and I felt happy to be out walking on a cold spring day.

I also just finished reading Mary Reed's book, the Unwitting Mystic: Evolution of the Message of Love.  It is a book about a woman who had an executive career in the world of non-profit healthcare that began having mystical experiences.  She ultimately ended up in a Buddhist nunnery in India sitting with the 17th Karmapa (future Dalai Lama).  Her book has a beautiful, uplifting message and I felt invigorated reading her words.  The book reminded me that there is goodness in this world...that "I am goodness"...and that "I want to BE all that I Am!"

At some point while writing this blog entry I realized the wisdom of her words and the joy of these pink blossoms share the same message.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Quail Eggs, Spring Flowers, Happy Easter!

Yesterday I decided I wanted to do something with the quail eggs I bought last year at Hurd Orchards.  My first thought was to take them outside and line them up on an old board to photograph them....hence, the above photo.

My second thought was a bit more ambitious.  I thought if I had enough time I would make a wreath of the spring flowers in the yard and include the eggs.  I started by making a circle with some greens and then placed flowers around the circle.  The wreath ended up a little wonky and I wasn't very happy with the photos.  I could feel myself getting frustrated that my project wasn't turning out. 

There was the moment where I had to decide to be done with it or to keep going .  I took a deep breath and decided to just let myself play with it.  If I took a good photo...great.  If not, that was fine too.  Somehow the idea that it was just "play" took the pressure off of trying to make things "just so" and I sat there and had a wonderful time arranging flowers and eggs. 

I also realized that an important part of allowing myself to play is giving myself the proper time to relax enough so that I can get in play mode.  Last night as I was trying to write this blog entry I was feeling rushed and tired but I wanted to finish.  When I woke up this morning and read the entry I could feel the haste in the words.  So I opened a new document and decided to give myself time to "play" a little more.  

Besides encouraging everyone to allow yourself the time to play this weekend, I also wanted to wish everyone a joyous spring and a Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lenten Rose - A Closer Look

If you follow this blog you know that I take a lot of photos on my walks and I love to get up close to my really see and know them.  This past week I ended up in my backyard photographing the lenten roses that recently sprang to life.  Usually in the evening I snuggle up to the computer to take a look at what I "collected" on my outings.

One of my absolute favorite things to do when I first look at the photos I have taken is to simply view them in Windows photo viewer.  In this program I can double click on the image and it will zoom in as far as the image allows.  It also lets me use the scroll wheel on my mouse to zoom in and out.  I LOVE zooming in and what I find never ceases to amaze me!  Above you can see the entire photo and below you can see what it looks like when I zoom in.

I have both creamy white and pink varieties of lenten roses.  When I looked closer at the middle of the pink flower below it took my breath away. 

I love how each "layer" is made of totally outlandish piled right on top of the other until it culminates in an explosion right in the center.  When you see it like this it is really quite stunning.

For you botanists out there I learned something interesting about the structure of this flower from Wikipedia.  "The flowers have five petal-like sepals surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries which are actually "petals" modified to hold nectar."  You can see these nectaries quite well in the photo above.  They are the odd-shaped tubular structures surrounding the burst of white stamens.

As I zoomed in and out of my photos I kept wondering what a bee might see when they pass by.  In addition to seeing these incredibly enticing dotted sepals and stunning array of reproductive parts, they also see colors in the UV spectrum.  Even though I can't see that, I am still mesmerized and drawn in by the zig zag pattern created by the anthers and filaments in the flower above.

These final three photos are not "zoomed" photos but I included them because, let's face it, I just thought they were pretty.

I thought the soft greens and pinks of the petals below were particularly nice.

After viewing all of these flower close-up I realize these amazing fireworks are happening daily in my backyard!  It's as though the flowers are outbursts of ridiculous joy singing the most visually stunning song our eyes have ever heard.  So I urge you next time you are out for a stroll, let yourself go and explore.... get up close to things...smell the spring earth waking up...lay down in the intimate with this world.   

“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable,
those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

"The exterior spectacle helps intimate grandeur unfold.” ― Gaston Bachelard