Looking At What’s Outside

The turkeys this morning with only one surviving chick. They are so vulnerable to predators when they are too small to fly.

Also along the new trail:

Heavily trafficked by the deer.

Lovely old stump skeleton.

An old treasure tossed over the bank.

After a turkey dust bath.

And last week in the early sun I photographed my school of wine fish outside my studio window. I miss being down there watching them gently sway with breezes.

And a pink lotus!

Attracting the first katydid of the season. Now our nights will be so noisy with their arguing whether katy did or didn’t.



And when was the last time you received a brown paper package tied up with string? A lovely and thoughtful gift for Lee all the way from Australia, three pairs of Bamboozled socks. I helped him put on the fox ones this morning. These kindnesses come from places never expected which makes them all the more memorable. And it brings up the absence of kindness from expected sources. The Covid virus has brought us all to new places in old comfort zones. A neighbor up from Florida brought over chicken soup the other day. Hotter than Hades but we ate the soup with gratitude. I am going to share some of my Second Best Malted Cookies I Ever Tasted with her.

We had a good chat on the walk outside about how we are both writing books about childhood memories, my Stoat Book and hers about journaling. I gave her one of my small kangaroo hide journals to use for illustrating the one that the book is about.

The Stoat books are all cut to exacting sizes and ready to glue, fold and make covers. It will take a while as I can only give that kind of concentration when the caregivers are here. A friend brought over the perfect color of lokta paper to do almost all of them….another kindness.

Most of the books will head to Australia. It will take a much longer time with Covid. I noticed my latest anonymous card took almost a month to get here from Tasmania. Probably fewer planes, fewer workers.

The drawings a day continue.

Stunted little grapes

sharing the stems with stunted

dried and curling leaves.


Is liriope

pronounced with every single

syllable or not?


A strange lavender

blooming vine crawling along

appealed to some bugs.


Prickly thorny stems

producing dried up berries

and shriveling stems.


That is about enough this morning. Lee has been dozing out here on the porch as we watch the trail blazers at work.

Til later.

Getting Book Pages Cut – Making a Trail – Making an Artist Book

Lee is looking down to where his trail is cut through the woods below the dining room. He will have so many places to line up his rocks. They should be able to finish the last of the trail near my studio by the end of next week.

It is really hot and humid today and he has taken his substitute caregiver on a tour around the yard. It won’t be long and I think they will come inside to the endless cop shows on the TV. It is nice in here with the air conditioner fixed.

Inspired by Lee’s lines of rocks and by the encouragement of friends to do an artist book about his rocks, I finished the book the other day. Here it is all rolled up.

I used a Japanese wooden fishing bobber for the center where all the scrolls glue by one end. I bought these from the Tombo booth at Grampians Textures a couple of years ago. I only have three and was going to give some away, but you know how that goes…..you hold them in your hand, feel the softness, the wear, the history, and you just know that no one else will love them as much….so you keep them. And it went with the Japanese type garden we have out front.

Here it is partially opened.

And then more so.

I painted the long lines of rocks with the watercolors I made from the earth pigments on our road/driveway.

The scrolls can roll out and then roll over each other and be held in place by the small rocks from Lee’s endless supply.

Then it just rolls up on the wooden center piece and the few rocks fit into a small can the same diameter of the bobber. It is fun to manipulate….much like it must be for Lee moving his rocks around.

Here is some of his trail starting down from behind the shed at the end of the driveway.

Looking back up toward the house as you walk by below.

Heading down toward where all the artwork was buried.

From there it comes into a small clearing before going back into a bit of woods then turns and curves back and forth below the porch until it will end at my studio patio.

Lotus bloomed this year. The pond guy was right, the lotus is happier in the sun. I might have him move the other two from the shady end to join this one.

My last four drawings a day.

This uninvited

massive green-leaved wildflower –



A fat juicy growth

with the emerging green buds

on dark maroon stem.



Red honeysuckle

really is not red, but orange

or salmony pink.


Thought it was catnip.

Now I am not very sure.

But then, what is it?


When I finish drawing the collected specimen each morning, I put it into this pot of water with the others. As they die off I will stuff another one into its place.

My dried up Eucalyptus stems are still here with the old small acorn covered branch. In with them are the fennel parts and juicy maroon stem and red honeysuckle.

This morning I was able to buy more cheap flowers at the grocery store. I won’t buy them unless they are three bunches for ten dollars. Then I try to find things that will go with the first choice of sunflowers. All are trimmed and shoved into an old brown pottery picture….I think it was titled “Stag and Pine Tree” and likely was quite valuable to collectors of early pottery at one time. Now no one wants these old things….and why would they? It weighs a ton empty!

Because the flowers are a bit old when I buy them it takes almost two weeks before they look like this.

I find this one as appealing as the fresh ones. Probably even more so. It looks like me in a way. The perk is pretty much gone. I am losing the brightness, the sunniness. I don’t know if my earrings still have holes to fit into. Forget the lipstick. This morning I noticed that I stuck my elbow into some bleach counter cleanser without knowing it and thought, “Not too bad. I can take a black laundry marker to it.” Earlier I would have put it in the “painting clothes” pile or tossed it out. Now I am using black marking pens to cover the spots. I think it is such a good idea that I may eventually turn my entire wardrobe to black. I am also watering down my heavy single malt scotch that I just loved straight. It is lasting longer when I do that and does not burn going down….which is a whole new phenomenon.

Two days ago my doctor’s office called to tell me my appointment had been moved back one day. I said, “I didn’t know I even had an appointment! Wasn’t I just in there not too long ago?”

“Yes, Sandy, but now we are checking you every six months…not just once a year.”

“Well did I forget that I have a disease that needs checking? Did I want Teresa (my doctor) to look at some new thing on my body?”

“No, Sandy, you are at that age where we like to see you twice a year. That’s all.”

Now I am wondering if I can possibly get some of the covid weight off before I have to face her always heavy-handed scales.

That is a stupid thing to be wondering about now because I just explained to the checkout girl at the grocery this morning at 7:15 that the two things you run out of before your two weeks is up between shopping trips, are beer and ice cream. These are not scale friendly.

Anyway, I am off to the studio to cut more of the Stoat Story pages and consider how much lokta paper needs to be ordered for their covers once everything is glued together.

Til later.

Some Lighter Times

The other day I posted the recipe for a Turbo Tonic on Facebook. It came from a friend in Australia who considers this her favorite drink. It is equal parts gin and cold coffee, then tonic water and lime or lemon…just add ice. It sort of dresses up, or down, a gin and tonic. Reviews have been mixed among those mostly not committing themselves to actually trying it. But so far one good convert.

I was sharing the recipe with our kids on a group call. We do this twice a week to make isolation a bit more bearable. We also have a drink on these calls and then they mail the labels from those bottles so they can be added to the Covid Coping Book. The book is close to being filled up with labels and I will have to make another…maybe more than one to get us all through.

So in one of these calls and after a drink of a Turbo Tonic, I told my kids that when I was a child, I did this very fun but very strange thing. To get a nickel from friends so my brother and I could go to the Saturday movie in this very small and very up north town, we would charge them to see us eat poison ivy, shatter old plates over one another’s heads, and as a big finale, but only after a good rain we did the following:

Note: Let me be clear here, it was early fifties. Eisenhower was president and we were pretty much left to amuse ourselves. There was no weekly allowance for doing chores that were just part of being in a household with others. And my brother and I were pretty creative…both growing up to be artists. We were quite sure it was poison ivy because we asked our mom and if you hit the top of the head with the center of the chipped, thrown out plate, it did not hurt but shattered perfectly.

So after a good rain and water filled the ditches, we would take an old rusty bread pan and catch what we called “rain fish” from the ditch and enough of the water so he could swim around. These fish only were in the ditches after a rain and we had no idea how they suddenly appeared. We also had a length of rubber hose that was about four feet long.

So any kid who would eat poison ivy had no problem charging their friends another nickel to see them slurp out the water without swallowing the fish. Yes, crazy, I know that. But a nickel is a nickel. The fun part was we had a friend, David, who just knew he could also do it. He got that fish in his mouth every time. The secret is that you have to keep the hose at the tail end of the fish…..away from where he is headed.

So our kids were not all that surprised when I told them about this in the call. They know that I have very few people to talk to and share stories. Plus they are kind and seem to be genuinely interested in my childhood.

So here is the outcome of that call. As a treat on our next call our son made this drink to “share” with me. It is not rusty but still a bread pan. He added some gin and lime to give the water flavor, tossed in some miniature Swedish fish and found a flexible straw.

I am sure all those limes were to simulate ditch side vegetation.

I was delighted beyond words to see this ingenuity! If he had been here in person, I would have paid him a nickel. He is sending me the fish and the “hose” so I can make my own in a bread pan….and of course there was some alcohol added….gin or vodka, I will get his recipe.

And more drawings a day.

My stacking these rocks

does not make them easier

to draw on the page.


A nice wildflower

but then  added another

rock to yesterday.

Lovely fennel bush

has leaves that are bursting forth

like breathy whispers.


The fennel has bloomed

and yet still is unable

to stop leafing out.


And a bit more news today. It has taken quite awhile to get this post written. Yesterday our air conditioner went out. First off I had the fellow visit it outside to hear the noise. Ah Ha it has frozen up. We will turn on the fan to make it unfreeze. Visiting the actual machine in the basement, Ah Ha it is the capacitor.  Good he has another one in his truck. Gets the old one unscrewed and realizes it is the fan blades! Unbolts the fan to see that most of the blades have banged themselves loose. Ah Ha we will order a new fan! Then on close examination the motor may have been damaged. Ah Ha let’s get a new motor, too!

Fine, whatever it takes. He has to go visit his pastor to fix something there. I ask him not to put the pastor ahead of us. I tell him his pastor has connections and maybe he (pastor) could try that first.

I am assured that he won’t forget us and will get back with me later today about whether parts are available tonight or tomorrow morning. This man is big, covered with tattoos, looks to be about mid thirties and since, like I said there are few people to talk to, he is happy to share that he is fifty-two, is a grandfather to an eighteen year old boy getting his driver’s license, belongs to a motorcycles for missions organization, and he never, not once, stops smiling and assuring me that it will all get better.

I get his card just in case I get down and drinking alcohol from a bread pan doesn’t help. When he comes back I will ask him to just glance at my dehumidifier and tell me why that has decided not to run.

That is it for today. Except that the caregiver has car troubles, there is no one else to fill in and Lee is dragging rocks about on his own. My studio time sorting out pages for The Stoat Story will have to wait til Wednesday.

Til later.


Some Days Are Hard

This is Lee’s rake. He has used it for a long time. It does not do much but he used it anyway. It’s condition is due to his trying to uproot rocks and roots. When I found out I could order and curbside pickup at the hardware, I got him a new one, a bright red handled one. Besides that, I got two new bottles of super glue to put things back together.

I can’t put his brain back together. I can’t offer much in the way of comfort when he cries, confused and wanting to go “home”. I just rub his shoulders, tell him who I am, where we live and how long we have been together….fifty-three years. He remembers none of that and thinks I am not being truthful. This only happens on cloudy days and late in the day. I know it will happen more often as time goes on but it is just so hard.

I don’t dare cry, I don’t show any emotion that will make it harder for him. I simply chat away, filling in the empty spaces of his sobs. And then it is over. I suggest a drink or a dish of ice cream or a walk around the yard.

We are isolated. The joy comes from twice weekly group calls to family and the mail box when a friend sends him postcards with his name written large enough for him to read, when another friend sends hand drawn postcards that always have his name somewhere on the card…and those thoughtful friends from down under who remember me with kindness. He does not know who the people are behind the cards but likes that he is thought of. So thank you to the precious few who do this for him and me.

He continues to line up rocks. I continue to adjust to a life that has changed so drastically.  Here are some things I pointed out to him the other day.

I think how wonderful it would be to crawl deep into here and not come out…..but I won’t.

And some of his new installations along the driveway.

This morning he brought me four small rocks like the ones above. I thanked him and said that tomorrow morning I was going to do a drawing of them all stacked up in my drawing a day book. He was happy with that idea and we carried them into the drawing “place”.

Here are the last four days of drawings.

These small clay-like rocks

were drawn with difficulties

in finding their forms.


It is the subtle

planes of gradual levels

that making drawing hard.


Rock from Canada

was such a wonderful gift

from Jo McEwen.


Sent from Alaska

is this flattish round smooth stone

allowed in the house.


I look forward to tomorrow’s drawing time and getting Lee’s approval.

The other day I found some journals with only writings of observations. Here are two from a fairly recent trip down under.

Helen’s favorite drink , a turbo tonic. Equal parts cold coffee and gin, add tonic and lemon or lime…makes no difference.

(I think I will fix this drink tonight for our family call at seven.)

The room fills with the noise of women. Collectively it is not the sound of voices, but deep-throated cockatoos. The room rattles. There is a steady chink of wine glasses. The only discernible voice is the one next to me and it is a shame I have no interest in what I hear. The voice you want to listen to is at the back – where the faces show interest and intensity. I want to know what warrants that.

Women are hard to gather together when it is required – not so much when an inner voice instead, demands their presence. The carpet is hotel lobby red with evenly spaced medallions of green leafy shapes forced into squares. I sit by the podium because I can use the table to hold my own glass of wine.

Whimagery – “the interaction of thought and light, and reveals the hitherto unknown aspects of history.” Also, the release of our minds into fantasy in order to enrich our imaginations.”

Hetrotopia is the otherness of place…Michel Fucoult…think of your reflection in the mirror….you are there and here at the same time…both places.

Those two words and their meanings seem to be very much where I am now, here and not here, both places full of the never ending thoughts of my own imaginings.

Okay, til later. I need to do some trimming of the test form for the Stoat Story. Lee is outside with his caretaker and some rocks.