Back in Studio and Printing

Before I get to printing, here is the man who will put in a nice winding trail for Lee to wander and place some of his rocks. It will go in and out of the woods and switchback in places too steep to head straight back to the studio door.

And the last four days of drawings a day.

Old oregano

has very sparse leaves and blooms.

But is still potent.


Grape vines continue

to stretch out with grasping reach

of aspirations.

A Eucalyptus!

I bought all that the store had.

Five of seven live!


Distorted effort

of one of the surviving

Eucalyptus trees.


Now to the printing I had a chance to try yesterday. On Wednesday afternoon I worked on a small acrylic plate from Melbourne Etching, First the drawing, then place the plate over and copy.

I was inspired by the butterfly bushes in the yard.

Here is the first print….paper too wet.

I am sooo out of practice! The first test prints while I get the feel of wiping the plate.

And the one I picked out to add watercolors.

It felt so good to be back in the studio. I can etch plates over drawings upstairs and then use the time Lee has a minder to get back to printing.

I have approved the samples of The Stoat Story so will also be working on those books. Most of them will be mailed with the rest of the Bush Books to Australia. So grateful for the supporters down under. And their payments will be to Kangaroo Island restoration.

More later.

What Keeps Me Busy Right Now

The sudden changes from hot to cool rain take an emotional toll. Today I have four hours to get this blog done and then maybe, just maybe try to make a new print of something….anything! I worry my inks will dry up or I won’t find my tools or I won’t know what to make an image of or I will have forgotten how to do any of it. Hot humidity does that….makes you feel totally incapable.

Here is the back yard before rain last night.

And during the rain.

When the yard man returns I am going to have him carve a trail for Lee to walk down through here. Something winding that will bring him back to the house. He is now digging up rocks to place in lines around the driveway. I think I am beginning to not only see the necessity for him to do that, but how satisfying it must be for him to find a way to make an order out of chaos that must be going on in his head at times.

Normally he will drop off to sleep before I have read a paragraph to him but he stayed awake for the entire reading of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It was fun to read. I cried at three places in the book which confused him because he was not getting the sadness of something happening. I just took another sip of single malt and got hold of myself, we laughed and I read on. It is that kind of story….relatable.

So just because, here is the front yard in the rain last evening.

Thank heaven the tree trimmer came last month or I would not be able to see through the leaves.

I am now helping Lee get dressed after his shower. Making sure his shorts are on with the fly in the front, helping him steer into his undershirt and sweat shirt. He can do socks and jeans with zipper, button and belt buckling and strap the velcro on his shoes. He can brush his hair, part it but forgets to then brush it away from the part. He can brush his teeth but needs the toothpaste put on. He can still use his electric shaver but misses quite a bit. And I must say it is hard to use that shaver on someone else’s face. I can’t seem to have him make all those necessary contortions that men do to tighten their skin in different areas. But it was fun trying. Once he can’t feel any more whiskers, he says I am finished, and thanks me for doing it.

The other day I took out the Responsibility Hands sketchbook and started filling it in with some new things he has forgotten.

He had filled a glass with Worcestershire sauce thinking it was beer….I caught that just in time. I could see why it happened. The bottle was the right size, it was brown and what came out looked like a nice deep porter. I think I got him to understand that the beer is only kept in the garage refrigerator, not the one in the kitchen that holds too many strange and nasty things that look like beer. I think our dining out days might be over now. He gets confused on his utensils and piles up whatever he considers non-edible on his napkin or on the table. Whatever is considered edible he cuts into the smallest pieces and mixes it all together.

I think I should write a book about living with dementia, how frustrating and funny it is at the same time. Document the slow decline and use these images as illustrations. I don’t know when I would have the time now.  Right now I am getting concerned with other ideas of things that I feel are important to get done. You know how it is when you wake up at three in the morning and say, “I really need to do that!” Then in the morning if you think of it again, you talk yourself out of it.

Well, I am not going to do that anymore. I am going to take care of it so I can sleep through the night and wait for the next idea to wake me up.

The drawings a day continue. I am making them larger, letting them run onto the facing page.

The inspiration for these drawings is this bed of black bamboo filling a stone-walled horse trough that we bought from a farm supply place for just that purpose….keeping the bamboo contained.

Within just a sprig

of black bamboo its elegance

is so apparent.


Old broken bamboo

fill in among all the new

and middle aged stalks.


Cautiously picked this

prickly stem of leaves and bloom.

Is it nettles?


Butterfly bush stem

of intense violet blooms

on ends of branches.

I still have three hours left of my four hour reprieve. I made new mailing labels on the printer. The very few books for a forest restoration charity in this country have mostly been mailed out. Only three of the ten Bush Books picked up interest in this country…the rest go to Australia and most of those mailed along with the Stoat Story.

My sample of the Stoat Story should arrive this week for me to go over and assemble. What works perfectly in our heads needs to be tested in reality. I am glad that Gwen Diehn reminded me of her son’s printing business. He has been most helpful long distance and seems to get what I am saying in emails. As soon as I get those sheets and turn them into books with hard covers, I will mail them out.  Thank you again to those who wanted one and plan to donate to the National Forests Organization here in this country and another that benefits the restoration of forests on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. The exact addresses/websites will be mailed with each book.

Okay, I am going to sign off now.

Til later.


Back Outside for Inspiration

The walk to the mailbox revealed some new things to look at. This moss forest within a forest.

A fern forest.

A budding mushroom.

New growth of some form of coral fungus.

Here is the last of my drawings from the tool bag and the bag itself.

The last tool from the bag

is a pair of black scissors.

Why’s it called a “pair”?


Tool bag with pockets

all with zippers that are packed

with necessities.

These little acorns

might have anticipated

becoming large trees.


A mysterious

outcome from an innocent

unassuming weed.


So now it is back outside for bits of things to draw and write about.

And just a bit of a followup on my last post on the importance of written letters. And I may have mentioned this a while back….my mother kept every letter I ever wrote to her, and she put them into a shoe box. In the later years of her life she would ask a sister who was looking after her to get the “Sandy Box”. Then willy-nilly she would take out one of the letters and have them read to her. Sometimes I was telling her about things our kids were learning at school, sometimes it was a recipe I thought she would like to try, sometimes a poem that I found or wrote, or some injustice that I needed to rant about. And the good part was that she could visit with me at any time she wanted at any odd time in my life.

She was not much older than I am now. The heartfelt cards and newsy letters from friends will do that same thing for me. My kids do not write, they call or email…like I said, not anything to hang on to. But my kids better darn well bring the box when I ask for it.

I cut Lee’s hair this morning. I had to cover about fifty chigger bites with an ointment. He has gone deep into the grass to find more rocks for his constructions. Our doctor wrote a prescription to ease the itchiness. The result is as always, I need to keep a better watch.

Yesterday he chopped all the veggies and herbs to make savoury muffins. They are quite good and gives him more choices for breakfast….actually I make the choice as options are confusing. We might make scones next.

That’s it for now.

Til later.

Mail Delivery

When you are in isolation/lockdown/ quarantine…whatever this is where mobility is limited….the mail becomes so important. Even junk mail is worth perusing. Lee loves it because junk mail is usually addressed to him.  He can’t really read that well anymore but he knows what his name looks like. After looking at the pictures he will ask if he should throw it out. Yes, put that one in the trash.

My mail is like a life line. I can’t seem to throw it out. I keep it where I can look at it over and over.

There is actually a very big bowl on a large chest in the living room that has at least three years of Christmas cards in it. Once a year I used to take them out, put them in a zip lock bag and stuff it into a cupboard. Now I leave them in the bowl. It was the signatures that got to me. Their name coming to me through their hand.

The form letters about family members and social doings for the year hold little interest anymore. It is the signed name that matters.  I make my own Christmas cards like I have for many, many years. And I sign my and Lee’s name to them. No printed form letters for us. Each year there are fewer people to make and mail cards to. It gets easier to keep with the tradition.

A favorite sister that passed away several years ago never forgot my birthday. She was the only one who it mattered enough to to send a card. Usually a card of some sweet Nature drawing or painting, usually a Hallmark card. But she always signed it “Lovingly, Normae”. When she passed the first thing I thought of was that that was the end of cards signed, “Lovingly”. And it was. I never knew of anyone else who signed cards or letters that way. She also had a destinctively pretty handwriting. Her cards always made me feel loved. She was a very thoughtful person…probably the most thoughtful of the six siblings I was part of….most are gone now.

I remember a movie that starred Paul Newman and Sally Field. They played a couple falling in love and one night she said she had to write a letter to her father. He asked why she didn’t just call him. Her answer, “Because when I hang up, he has nothing to hold onto.” That has always stayed with me. Letters and cards matter.

I have a special drawer where the good cards and letters go. They are the ones I can look at over and over and over.

Here are some.

All of these are from Australia. I keep them in their envelopes so I can smell the country they come from. So many of these cards come anonymously and are so funny in the way they are collaged together. A simple thoughtful greeting on the back, tucked in envelopes bearing exotic foreign stamps.

Another one on the left is from a papermaker/printmaker and feels delicious in the hand. Some come with treasures inside that the senders know will thrill me no end. Lee loves how excited I get when one of these comes in the mail.

And here is one that came just the other day. Just reading her words out loud was impossible without them catching in my throat. She was sending love and wanted me to know she has conversations with me in her head quite often. How good is that!

The card is a reproduction of my most favorite Australian printmaker, Cressida Campbell, who carves one block, adds watercolors to it, dampens it before going into the press for one print only. I always showed pictures of Cressida’s work when I taught white line printmaking. I love that the sender remembered how much I liked Cressida’s work. Also inside was this perfect gift, hand printed by an Australian artist whose towels I dry dishes with daily….it’s a block printed handkerchief for crying into.

Isn’t that lovely?

More later….with drawings.