Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Hounds of Spring on Winter's Traces

WHEN the hounds of spring are on winter's traces,
The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain.


I doubt if he would have applied this to today's hound sightings, but he's not in a position to complain, so please meet this morning's catch, our local Hounds of Spring:

Ziggy, four month old black lab/Shepherd mix with his proud teenage owner out in bitter weather running together and chasing sticks and generally acting like a happy puppy, posing very obligingly for me, actually planning to lick the camera.

And his new best friend, met this morning, three year old beagle/coonhound mix, running at a good 30 mph and cornering on two paws, as you see.

The two owners, a young teenage boy and a very old lady, also new best friends, but I couldn't get her into the same frame as her fast moving dog!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Celebrating January

Yesterday the almost full moon was up in a clear sky before the sun had set, and seeing it caught among the branches of a tree hurled me into a Japanese woodblock print. Favorite motif in Japanese printmaking, painting, haiku, is the moon caught in the tree.

It's one of those places in life where art informs what you see forever after. I can't see a field of corn stubble without flashing on Anselm Kiefer, either. Or an interior with a window without seeing Matisse.

And the other January pleasure is the shrubs that flower then.

Witchhazel is in full bloom, smelling wonderful, and definitely of interest to passing cats....Duncan pushed in on the picture taking session when I was trying to show you the twigs I swiped recently which have opened up. They're very tiny starlike flowers, beautiful seen through a magnifying glass. Like mosses, they're minute treasures which we hardly notice unless they're brought to our attention.

The snowdrop noses have appeared, and will soon flower, and daffodils are already above ground, but that will be quite a while. Meanwhile, I'm happy with the witchhazel blooming away out there, despite freezing winds and snow and sleet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Moss on the north side, and other nesting ideas

Some simple knitting here, afghan squares knitted diagonally in garter stitch, here arranged in rough draft for deciding how to assemble them. The complete thing will be 16 squares in all, very symmetrical arrangement, all made in lambswool and angora, harvested from three thrift store sweaters, and destined for Handsome Partner's use when the weather is a little bit less bitterly cold. This picture was taken despite Marigold's best efforts to rearrange the pieces into a nice kitty bed for her. She will no doubt show up on future efforts, having already settled down for a nap on a square I was still knitting.

I'll single crochet the sections together, then do a nice edging around the whole shebang to give it some unity and shape. This is the kind of easy stuff you can do while you watch the news and argue bitterly with your partner about it.

And since it's the time of year when Spring ought to be getting here a lot faster than it is, I made a little moss terrarium (put onto this idea by Eepy and MaryAnn, blame them) today.

Just picked up some moss in the woods, around the beech trees, mostly predug by squirrels frantically looking for their nut deposits, I had it here before, I know I did, maybe it was that other beech tree, though, no, wait, Walt said absolutely the best return on investment was the black walnut area...and I set it up as is under a glass loaf pan, which was the nearest thing the house yielded, on short notice, to a Wardian case, set it on the shelf in the kitchen near the window, and am awaiting further developments.

Also on the woods walk, under a pile of leaves I found a personmade nesting house thing, made of cornstraw and other stuff, with a pointed roof. Anyway, it's now hanging from the wild cherry out back, and maybe we'll get a pair of Carolina wrens nesting in there this year. It occurs to me that I could just post a picture rather than blather on about what it looks like. This belated realization is the fruit of many years of writing for print publications during my misspent youth, all words, no pix. I keep having to remember I can do pix now.

I love Carolina wrens, because for a tiny bird they have the most amazing set of pipes, what a racket! and they repeat themselves endlessly, which I tend to, so I feel for them....they nest around here a lot, good school system and all that, usually in the most awkward place, like on the hinge of an open garage door so you have to decide whether or not to use that door for months on end. Or in the clothespin bag.

I've had them take a shot at nesting in hanging plants, then changing their minds, probably because the mourning doves whose specialty this is, had a quiet word with them..and mourning doves are model neighbors, quiet, nice kids, very tidy tenants.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Updates and foot power

I just had to show you this latest Freecycle find. It's a handmade fabric covered box containing footcare stuff, and the packaging is a wild grass. All made in Indonesia, why are you not surprised that such care and expertise and terrific sense of humor, is found here. As usual, the picture enlarges so you can probably read the contents, which are lovely, all natural good stuff.

The great thing is that it's a fair trade product, meaning that the original maker was paid a proper rate for the product, rather than the sweatshop levels you will be taking part in if you shop at various chain stores with very low prices.

But, if you Freecycle, it's the lowest price of all! someone paid a proper rate, gave it as a gift and the receiver passed it on to a happier recipient, me.

Other updates: the tapestry series is now under pressure, affixed to a backing, the glue is drying, and need only a couple more stages before becoming an actual finished artwork.

I have had many iterations of ideas about these guys since finishing the parts. They just didn't add up as well hung separately in a vertical formation as I'd hoped, but look a whole lot better when they're very close together, more bang. So that's the next stage.

I have some nice canvas (actually a dropcloth found at the dumpster and washed soft, lovely soft natural color) which I think will be the back of the whole series, in a solid vertical column. But that may change too. Can't show you pix yet, since they are reposing under glass sheets on glass sheets, with various thing like a miniature press and a shredder weighting down the glass, just happen to be a good size and heft for the job.

Did you know that "on the job" is a brit slang expression for having sex? I bet you didn't, and now know why you raise eyebrows and chuckles among brits when you say you called home to make sure the contractors you arranged for were on the job.....

Last update: the Round Robin Journal, according to my tracking number at the trusty PO, is now in the hands of Diane W., and I hope she's having a good time, and able to set aside a little bit of time, too, to play with it before it moves on in a couple of weeks' time. And might even take a pic of what you do, huh, Diane, that would be great?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not too late to help Haiti

I haven't mentioned Haiti in here, for various reasons, one of them being that we all know and care already, and people who want to donate know how to, and my words won't add help to the situation.

But I usually don't give money immediately to this sort of huge crisis, since the fact is that they can't absorb a ton of help right away. They need it going along, and now is a good time to do something if you haven't already. Any amount (and I admit ours will be definition be small, given our financial situation) is good.

And take a look at dear Olive in the terrific Mason Dixon knitting blog, for inspiration! that's probably not a hotlink, but cut and paste and you'll get there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rough drafts and finished objects

Out at the preserve the other day before the ice and rain moved in, I found many Canada geese and other species crowded into an open area of water on the icy lake -- the deepest part probably doesn't freeze, where they are -- making a terrific racket. They are noisy neighbors, and alas are protected in this state where they thrive and multiply amazingly.

And I got a nice shot of the stone bench that has been put up at the end of the peninsula which you can walk to by getting halfway round the lake then up the strip of land, and where before there was nowhere to rest your elbows while you held your binoculars, or sit high enough up to see. And now there is.

I talked about seating years ago with the preserve ranger, when there was nothing other than the trails, and he said, well, I have some good ideas about that, using natural materials and local labor, and he put several benches around where you often want to sit and wait for birds, made from fallen trees on the preserve (probably assisted by an active beaver colony forever felling trees) plus this lovely stone thing, like a dolmen except it's a bench, which doesn't ruin the point of the land at all.

Back indoors driven by rain and sleet, I wandered around and remembered my little tablescape upstairs, miniature animals sitting on a cigar box, all handmade, as were the cigars that used to be in the box, Cuban finest.

The animals are: wood jaguars, maybe, carved and painted in Indonesia, then one bread dough cat with saucer, created by HS at the age of 7, the little cat carefully modeled to crouch on her own, not resting on the saucer, which you slip under her chin! and the little clay turtle, was created as a model for kids to refer to, by the writer of this blog, as part of a series I taught in the local summer program a few years ago, on the Indians that used to be native to this area, the Lenni Lenape, and we did various art and craft projects using natural local materials. The animals are explaining their handmade origin in the picture, as you see if you crick your neck.

Tablescapes are fun to do, but in a house with cats, you have to choose your location with care, otherwise they will become tablekittytoys in no time at all.

And the studio as always is full of rough drafts in all kinds of media, usually all going at once, one feeding another, so I thought you'd like a glimpse.

While I make art, I like to have something going in my ears to occupy the left brain a bit and let the right brain get on with its work, so this usually means discussion shows on public radio, sometimes on the subject of food and cooking, and I have a small quibble here. Well, it's a huge quibble, but we're in miniature mode at the moment....which is:

I left kindergarten years and years ago, and I DON'T say my food is "crispy" or "toasty" or "piping" hot or "yummy." There. End of quibble.

Which reminds me of nibble...time for a little something.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Philip Levine and me

So we were watching a public tv news program the other night, and on came a poetry segment, Jeffrey Brown talking with Philip Levine, a poet I'd only very vaguely heard of and knew nothing about.

Now I realize that to some of our blogistas, this is about the same as my rushing in here and saying, listen, I discovered this terrific sonnet writer, and I think he's written plays, too, what's his name again, yes, William Shakestaff, no, I think I mean Wagspear. No, silly me, it's William Wagstaff, and he's really good...

Anyway in my own defense to those who have read and loved Levine for years, I have not always been au fait with modern poets, partly because I've been put off by poet nazi friends, the kind who insist in loud voices that you HAVE to LOVE poetry, and I admit I was even put off Mary Oliver by one of these pns who, when I casually mentioned that I wasn't much into reading poetry, ran and got a copy of a Mary Oliver and literally shoved it in my face. Had to duck to avoid being hit by it.

Which definitely cooled my ardor for the friend and the poet...then years later when I discovered Oliver for myself, I loved her, but had to come to her in my own time not because someone bullied me into it.

Likewise the poetry festivals which are surrounded by a lot of hoohah and posturing and stuff that has as much to do with poetry as sanding floors, but I digress....

Anyway, after we had listened to Levine talking naturally, winningly, and coming across as a wise and nice person, about his earlier life on the auto production line, later as a college professor, I got a couple of his books out, one for HP and one for me, from the library, just to get a taste.

And you know how once in a long while a writer will say something that you think, ohmygarsh this person said what's in my own mind, just did it for me. It's a magical connection, and rare and lovely. I had thought what I would do was read a poem, then knit a bit (currently knitting an afghan in squares, lambswool harvested in shades of pink, tan and white, important info) while thinking about the poem, so that the knitting would provide a backdrop to enable the thinking.

Then I realized after I had knitted about ten stitches, that Levine is one of those writers who sends you off in a mad rush of excitement to write about them, and in the process get all kinds of apparently unrelated art and writing ideas of your own going. It's that supercharged creative energy that comes flying at you from some art, some music, some writing. And it's right here in Levine. What a huge bonus. Can't tell you more yet, since telling tends to take the place of doing, but sooner or later, you'll see.

The collection I'm reading is News of the World, the poem that sent me off in a creative barndance is Our Valley. Literally it's about the Fresno area, a place I've never been only know they produce raisins or something there, but metaphorically it's about a place we all inhabit even if we haven't realized it yet. You can see it and smell it and live it by reading this little page.

Funny to think that I was sad and at loose ends after I mailed off the journal to Diane, on the first leg of her journey the other day, because my part in it was done for the moment, and I had that post-childbirth feeling of accomplishment and relief and pleasure and loss all at once. Once your art leaves you, even a small work like the journal, it's like when your child leaves your body -- he is his own person now. It's lonely and it's right, all at once.

So I was definitely ready for a new adventure, I think, and Philip Levine may very well have flung open a new door for me. I think he'd laugh quietly if he knew. Well, that's okay, I laugh at myself all the time.

Now I'm going to read Unholy Saturday and knit a bit....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3..2..1..Liftoff! ruffles and flourishes

The racket you've been hearing this morning is the ruffles, flourishes and general blasting of trumpets as Treasure Everywhere, our joint art journal, achieves of this morning, it's on its way to you Diane!

Everyone, enjoy this adventure! I've had a great time creating the journal, which has a lot of blank pages just waiting for you to plunge in, as well as a few ideas here and there inside just because I couldn't resist.

And to antiquarians worried about the segment of the Japanese woodblock print on the cover, don't worry, yes it's a genuine 19th century print, but it was already damaged and not leading a useful life at all, so this is a way of giving it a new lease on life. I didn't do anything vandalic to it! the others in my collection which are undamaged are happily framed on walls that don't get direct sunlight, and doing just fine.

Remember to sign your own section of the journal as it comes and don't hesitate to add pages or whatever pleases you, as long as it doesn't get so bulky that the later users will need a hand truck to get it to the post office.

I'd suggest you take your own pictures of your own work, so that you have a record and can share it with us as we go, and when it finally comes home to me having circumnavigated the globe, I will take pix of the whole thing, page by page.

And finally......


Sunday, January 10, 2010

You lookin' at me? My patch, beat it!

I was walking briskly in freezing temps around the park today, nodding at people so muffled that I'm not sure if I know them or not, and the squirrels were doing their mad January chasing and dancing and general mating games.

One stopped long enough to hiss and chatter at me when I had the nerve to stand by his personal tree and take his picture, which I preserved here.

Which reminds me that this time of year, getting into February, is when a lot of animals mate, including raccoons, squirrels and possums, and they completely lose their minds in the heat, pun intended, of the chase.

So the normally nocturnal ones are seen all over the place in daytime, scrambling about, totally ignoring the human race. I used to get calls when I had the petcare biz from people who figured I probably knew something about wildlife and it was easier to get through to me than to the wildlife officials for the state.

They would be panic stricken wondering if seeing raccies in the daytime on their deck meant they were rabid. These fears are not too farfetched around here, since we do get reports of small rabid animals now and then.

So I would explain, no they're probably not rabid, they're mating under your deck! look out for little families of them in a few weeks, and if you set out a couple of Havahart traps, you can get the local animal control officer to pick them up and transfer them. It being illegal for the likes of us not sworn officers, to move wildlife anywhere.

January also brings us a shrub that blooms in the dead of winter -- witch hazel. For years I used to make a January pilgrimage to the local community college where they have great specimen trees and shrubs relating to their hort. programs, I suppose, and larcenously swipe a couple of little twigs from the witch hazel, which are wonderful miniature flowers which open up when you put the twigs in water to force them, and smell good, too. Scratch a gardener and you'll find a burglar in shabby clothes...

Then last year I discovered, duh, that on the side of the park I walk in daily there are several witch hazel shrubs, slightly different species, but fine for swiping and much easier to get to. They're right by the bus stop for reasons that escape me.

So a tiny little twig is now sitting in a glass of water and if it opens enough to be recognizable as other than a little dead stick, I will take a picture.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Still Life with Green Bananas

As you know, the concept of the still life is all about decay and the fleeting quality of life. So it amused me hugely at this point in my earthly sojourn, to take a nice still life pic of fruit including -- green bananas! it's a sign of hopefulness when you are still buying green bananas....

Speaking of bananas, I have just had a wonderfully comic interchange of emails with a nice lady who is apparently doing genealogical research into the Boud family. Somehow or other she found me somewhere and was eagerly asking me if I knew anything about Elizabeth Boud, from the 16th century....I explained that Boud is in fact only a screen name, in honor of my late lovely kitty Boud, short for Boudicca, the updated version of Boadicea, a grey, part-Siamese six pound vital force, small but deadly.

Which suggested her name, actually, since Boudicca, the early British warrior queen, damn nearly turned back the entire Roman military force intent on taking over Britain, at Colchester, which was called something Latin back then, so small but deadly was definitely how she struck them, I'm guessing. Veni, vidi, thumpi!

Anyway, this nice geneo lady simply refused to believe me, and insisted that Boud was my surname (it SAYS so, on the website about the Boud family of NJ, she tells me)
and says how weird that I selected (!) a surname related to Princess Diana. Well, it would be if I had.

At this point I still thought she was talking about my cat, and I said, heck, it would be weird if Diana were related to Boudicca.... it just got funnier and funnier, until I said, well it's been nice sharing, but you are clearly on a dead end here, since Boud is not my family name, never had been, and I can't help you further. I think she thinks I'm meanly holding out on her, heh. Comic relief.

The round robin journal is coming along a treat, and we have at least six people interested in taking part, room for more if any show up, and thank you all for being interested. I'm valiantly holding off on filling up the lovely blank pages, before I ship it off to whoever comes first on the list which I have yet to organize.

I'll be putting together an email with info for everyone. I've known either in person or via internet, everyone, for multiples of years, and I have good feelings about everyone's willingness to keep the email for the purpose intended and to just use it to send on the journal, and to faithfully keep it moving! and add to it your own personal stamp (!) and create a wonderful joint artwork.

Don't hesitate (as if you would!) to ask me via email if anything suddenly stumps you about it, okay? and just to make sure: no, Boud is not my family name.

Does anyone else sing Bananaz!!! to the tune of Bonanza, or is it just me?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Treasure Everywhere: The Great Field and Fen 2010 Fun Project, read on...

Would you like to take part in a journal project, open to all, to happen over the course of this year? Here's what I have in mind:

I am in the process of creating artist books, blank inside, with interestingly folded pages, a couple of pix here to show you what I'm talking about. I am suggesting that if you are interested, we can use one of them as a Round Robin Journal, to go around to anyone who wants to sign up and take part. The theme is: A Day in the Life!

I will decorate the front and back covers and leave the rest a lovely snowy blank for everyone to decorate at will. You can use a page or a double open page, your choice.

You don't have to be an artist to do this, by the way, since your page is your page -- you can glue in a comic strip you love that is appropriate for the day you're doing it, or you can write a journal entry in poetry or prose, to share a day in your life with us (if either Diane does this, the rest of us will feel quite tired after reading it....but full of admiration) or you can draw, paint, print, stamp, attach fabric or knitting or photograph, or whatever fits on your page.

I'm using Arches Hot Press watercolor paper, the best in the world, they've been making this stuff since the 15th century, they know how to do it so it will take whatever you can dish out! and if you want to do this but are worried about "ruining" a page, make a painting, drawing, print, etc. and simply glue it in, then you know you like it. Or if you do work directly on the page and don't like it, then make another sheet you do like and glue that over the one you didn't. Feel free to cut, punch holes in, etc. your page. In other words it isn't possible to make a "mistake" on this project! your mark is your mark and it's a treasure.

Actually the only mistake would be to not take part and then later wish you had!

What I plan to do is keep the book within reasonable size so it can easily be mailed in a manila envelope. I will NOT put your addresses in this blog, but will ask you to email me at with your mailing address, and I'll email the whole list around everyone so you know where you come on the list, and who to ship to after you've made your entry, and it will finally come back to me and I'll take pix of the whole thing and show you in here.

The mechanics: I send to the first person on the list, he/she makes an entry, ships to the next person on the list who makes an entry, etc. etc. until everyone's received and played with the journal, last person on the list sends back to me.

Some people are abroad, and I will undertake to send it first to the furthest away person, so that nobody else has to pay that postage, and then they send it to the next on the list, etc. I'd like to send to the first person before the end of January. Well, you know me, it will be WELL before the end of January...

This is just fun, not to be other than a nice toy and sharing. If you decide a bit late to get involved, I'll just add you to the list and notify the person before you who to send to. We can make this work.

In the words of the immortal Calvin and Hobbes: there's treasure everywhere!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year, however you say it

Are you going to say twenty ten, or two thousand ten? I don't think we ever came to a consensus as to what to call the last few years that were the "oughts" or "noughts" or whatever they were.

Today is in the 40s, wet, mild, no ice, no snow, this is Good Weather! we didn't quite see in the New Year, being a bit past it, and by 10.30 our day wound to a close. Lovely evening watching My Fair Lady, great fun, with a roaring log fire.

And the laundry was done, the garbage out, the bills paid, the current piece of knitting finished, all in honor of the new year. Of course this morning, owing to a catheter separation during the night, there's a whole new lot of laundry going, but never mind, that's what washing machines were invented for.

The picture is of happy ducks swimming in a brand new lake created by the torrential rainstorms where it used to be plain old grass, including a species of duck that we only see in the winter, and as soon as I find my bird book I'll identify it.

It's the little brown guy with the white shirtfront. A migratory bird, I think, since we're on the Eastern flyway and get a lot of species at different seasons on their way to someplace else..we're their flyover country! any knowledgeable reader is welcome to post what this one is.

And there was some wonderful accidental art on a neighbor's car where snow melted and folded over on itself like a sable wrap, around a numberplate which celebrated battleship New Jersey, a wonderful comment by Nature on the folly of man.

So that's us from here, and Happy New Year to all of us!