Monday, May 4, 2015

Nature's first green

In my ideal world, mild spring weather and the transition from winter bleakness to summer lushness would take no less than nine months. Gaunt branches would remain half bare, just softened by the airy lace of filmy yellow-green leaves, apple trees would cling to their frothy blossoms, gallant daffodils would keep fresh and yellow, and starry woodland blooms would bob above the dead oak leaves for months before being overtaken by the heat-loving undergrowth. As it is, every day or two or three there is a change which brings both beauty and loss. The particular beauty of the days before will not be seen again for a year. I grieve when warmer days green the trees with a rush and hurry the flowers to cast petals and make seed.

But while I regret every decorative change of spring's progress, I would draw my garden plants to maturity by force of will if I could. I've been spending hours in my garden every day, digging, mulching, weeding, seeding, amending soil with old horse manure and dreaming of snap peas and and arugula salad. There I am a practical farmer, a sensible hobbit instead of a regretful, backward looking elf. The contrast in these feelings interests me.

While in the regretful, backward looking mode, I think  about Robert Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay," indulging in the pretty images and the neatness of the rhymes and rhythm. In the biggest scheme of things, I don't believe this poem is altogether true, but in the spring it fits my mood.

"Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay."

This painting by English painter Duncan Grant, 1885-1978, is from the Tate Gallery.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Green grass

The grass will never be more beautiful than it is today. The trees are minimally dressed. The more voluptuous spring flowers wait for warmer days, and apart from the forsythia there are only prim, retiring blossoms in my landscape, to be appreciated in dainty ones and twos. 

But the grass is a single sweep of potent green, a trumpet blast of color. Blue sky and green grass create a simple, horizontal composition that surprises me with its forcefulness. During the winter I think of spring as light green leaves and a rainbow of flowers. I forget that first comes this fulfillment of green and blue.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A little break

I am sick and family members are sick--coughing, sneezing, wheezing, blowing, groaning, whining. It's nothing serious, but it diminishes productivity, so instead of thinking of this blog with regretful anxiety I've decided to institute an official two week hiatus, while I catch up on other stuff. 

I do plan to get some work done in my garden. It's the season of high hopes! 

The illustration is by Cicely Mary Barker. I tried but cannot track it to its online source, It's from her book Groundsel and Necklaces.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I really wanted to share something new of my own in this post, but a cold virus has been getting me down, and I haven't done a line of art for days. I'm sleepy all day long. My sluggish, unwilling brain keeps presenting me with negative statements about my creative abilities, but that might be its mean way of making me do nothing and rest.

Spring is almost here and it actually shows. It's a mild, white, densely-foggy day. The old snow is melting into the sodden tan grass, and the birds have broken their winter silence. We opened the windows for a little while today to get fresh air in the house, and now some of my kids are outside making cardboard-box forts on dry spots on the driveway.

In a few weeks, maybe, flowers will come out, and a green mist will brighten gray-brown branches. In the meantime, here are some spring flowers by English illustrator Edward Julius Detmold. They can be found on

Update: I wrote yesterday, but did not post. Things change so quickly with a bit of warmth. Today the grass is greening up, the fog is gone, and little children, mine and neighbors, are busy outside, rejoicing in light, color and soft air. I hear their tuneless singing and their chatter like chirping birds. I also hear rocks thudding into plastic buckets. I wonder what that's about.

And I feel so much better today that I sketched and will do so again.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Sometimes, when I have made some little thing with a bit of detail to it, someone says, "Oh, you have so much patience. I would never have the patience to do that," and I feel blank and slightly surprised. Huh? Patient? Me? I thought I was just having fun.

Certain kinds and stages of making trigger easy focus and a pleasant feeling of timelessness that might look like patience or discipline or endurance to someone who doesn't actually like making things. The early stages of carving a wax model are like that. While roughing out the basic shape I do fight impatience because I'm so eager to see my idea take shape, and I have to be careful not to go too fast and mess it up, but once the piece shows its basic gesture it's pure pleasure until I think, happily and mistakenly, that I'm almost done. That's when the long, hard part begins. I smooth the edges, trying to perfect fluid, graceful curves, but then I take off too much wax. I add more wax and refine the edges again, but accidentally nick a finished surface. I fill in the nick and smooth it out as if it had never been, but then I notice a bubble included when I added wax, so I ease it out with a hot tool, add more wax, and smooth it out again. I use a light hand, but delicate parts snap anyway beneath file and sandpaper, and I repair them, sometimes three or four times or more. It is tedious work. It is stressful, especially when I am working to a deadline (which I am not just now).

That's where I am with my leaf pendant.  I have spent hours smoothing, refining and repairing, and I think I actually am almost done. The aggravation has been greatly mitigated by listening while I work to The Mating Season, a Jeeves and Wooster book by English humorist P. G. Wodehouse, delightfully read by Jonathan Cecil. (The link will take you to YouTube and a few minutes of the story which you would have to buy to listen to in its entirety. I checked it out of the library instead.) Fiddling with hot wax mostly felt like a small price to pay for indulging in hours of delicious entertainment, so if someone remarks that I must really be patient, I suppose once again they will just be wrong.  I am more than ready, though, to start on my next project, a pendant shaped like a single lily-of-the-valley blossom.

On another  note, I have been enjoying paintings of interiors lately, pictures of simple rooms that open to the outside. They are straightforwardly real, yet feel symbolic as dreams, charged with quiet significance.

The two top paintings are by Danish artist Carl Vilhelm Halsoe (1863-1935). Google his name to find lots more peaceful, evocative interiors. The link is to Danish Wikipedia. He doesn't have an English entry yet. The last painting is by Adolph Menzel (1815-1905).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Christ our hope

The seeds of this post have been waiting for chance to sprout these last few days. And now I sit down with my watering can and grow light (because that's what seeds sprout under in the wintertime), but all I have are pictures and feelings. I have no words. 

Perhaps that is for the best. I share with you meaningful images, arising from my heart and speaking to my heart. 

An old doodle.

Christ Healing the Sick, an etching by Rembrandt also known as the Hundred Guilder Print. From Wikipedia. Click on the image to see it bigger and better.

And, by me, a little angel bearing gifts.