New Things/Old Stories

Our bowl of leaves is overflowing. The color is getting less vivid on the trail.

From this to this in just a few steps.

But late afternoons are perfect for a warm snooze on the porch.

And inside we have this! Thanks to one of very few people who offer to help out.

I no longer have the spare time to use the spa tub, so asked if the board Lee made to fit across it so I could read books in the bath, could be used as a barrier for someone who might lose their balance near the open stairway. Tommy said, “Sure.” and it was in place twenty-four hours later. One more thing off the list that wakes me in the middle of the night. And it will be easy to patch the holes when removed for selling the house in the future.

I also stopped by the grocery store and brought home many, many boxes to pack things away that we no longer use. Those boxes will be placed on a table we put up in the garage and be checked out by the kids, post covid worries next year, and then go to recycling.

Coming back from our morning walk, I saw this gasping effort of the nasturtium on the deck above. It is my favorite plant to buy in the Spring.

And this beautiful view of morning sun on wild grasses.

Now for those past four days drawings.

Onions like this one

are mostly well behaved if

they aren’t cut into.


A wad of burlap

tied to look like a pumpkin

with some sticks and stems.


A thank you package

from a very clever friend

living in the woods.


Only the right shoe.

It is all I have time for.

Cleaning lady here!


And I could not stop stitching on the Night Bunny. Now he is “boro-ed”. I had to stitch the paper to a piece of cloth so it would take the continued jabbing of the needle and pulling of thread. I have pinned another together of an owl on a nest in the moon light. Maybe it will be a Night Critters series.

Now for some more journal entries of sketch and story.

October 3, 2003 Perth WA

I am back pondering the plight of the traveler. Western Australian Museum Café – far outside corner. Latte again and a spinach cheesy pizza – downtown Perth. Expensive or more to the point, “pricey” town. A couple – middle age- one table over. Besides the companionship I notice another plus to being in company. The physical burdens of sightseeing are shared. He has the camera and cash and carries most purchases. She looks restored and cared for. Not only that, they sound American.

I carry whatever I left the B&B with this morning. In the string bag are camera, money, sketchbook, paints, notebook, pen, map of the city, some leaves and a recent purchase of blister bandaids – guaranteed to heal overnite. My shopping bag holds a sale book from the Art Museum titled Wildflowers in Art, a buy at $10. Bandaids and botanicals!

I am not thirty anymore. I enjoy saying “I’m American” as much as hearing them say “I know.” Besides my look of “older lady on holiday”, I cannot for the life of me get down the thing they do with the fork in the left hand. It (the fork) is turned over and the knife is used to sever bits of everything on the plate – then loaded up the “hill” of the fork. Fine, I can do all that – anyone who enjoys playing with their food can do it. Now keeping it in the left hand, turning and aiming at a gaping mouth is hard. I pass it to the right hand after removing bits, spearing one and go towards my face hoping I do not look as famished as the Australian maneuver appears to the watcher.

I am now going to look at old stones and shells and find the right train back.

Note* Not long after this observation on how to use the knife and fork properly I practiced….a lot…and for the past ten years at least, always make sure to add the knife to my right hand and pass the upturned fork over to the responsibility of the left. Only exception is soup. 

And another journal entry about Australia.

What is it about the Australians that seem to bring out the best in those of us who are not? In their company I am not a stranger but pulled into their raucous interior – inhibitions and hesitations fall away. They seem to hone in on the interior of a person, do not see or hear how we portray ourselves. To them we are all an equally appreciated part of their whole. We feel we belong and belonging to an Aussie group of fun-loving friends is definitely a good feeling. Even when parted, you will smile at the memory of being together and you will hear them laugh and feel their arms around you.

I will bring them out later, in secret, when my own kind neglect to see inside me and think I am someone else.

I love that last entry and have pulled them out so many times in this isolation.

All good today.

Til later.

Another Look Into Old Notes

This was this morning’s cache. The sourwood leaves are so hot pink this year. Usually they are bright red and gone. Several leaves have fallen off these past few days and most of them are brown.

I am getting anxious to finish this last sketch book of of drawings a day with haiku. I want to draw something else with a pen maybe. And no more counting up syllables! I have outlasted the rest of my group by months and months with this exercise and I am bored.

A nice neighbor gift

of a white pumpkin that has

a vine of paper.


Granny Smith apple.

The only contrast being

a poking out stem.


Attempt at drawing

the textures of a lemon

is harder than shape.


Red, ripe tomato.

No bruise and full of flavor

is waiting for me.


I am not sure how I can make a pen sketch last the 30 -40 minutes that these drawings and haiku do, but I have til end of the year to figure it out. I need that meditation time early in the morning.

Tomorrow I am going through all the bathroom cupboards and tossing out old medicines and jars of creams and whatever is not used daily. Then I will take a closet a day and do the same. My clothes now will go to a thrift store because covid has caused my usual stop at the craft shop to those who wanted to go through them, to come to an end. I miss that, dragging bags from the car to such fun girls waiting to see what was in them.

I will start collecting boxes from the grocery store and go through the cupboards in the dining room. If I think our kids would be interested, it will be stacked with other things they may want. But with the sensible thing being to stay put for the next several months and the need to get things under control here in case there is a sudden change in our lives, I need to quit putting things off.

I wish I knew a younger person starting out, especially an artist/craftsperson where even more could be unloaded. I really just want to get things gone, with enough left to make the house show well if we need to move. It will not be easy working on my own here to pack things up, but it is time to at least start.

I used to teach basketry and found this old sketch in a journaling book. Can you believe I found it just before news clippings of the war in Iraq, letter from a mentor on how she was coping with childhood assault memories that suddenly emerged, a cheerful thank you from a theater group we used to feed, an article on Paul Simon being the “thinking man’s” songwriter, quotes on art, short writings I did to share with my mother, and on and on. There were pictures from magazines saved in the same book. I am guessing it was started in the late 80s and then closed up fifteen years later.

I will copy out the good things then toss the book. Behind every cupboard door there is the equivalent of that old journal…lots of old stuff, very little needed anymore.

But here is another writing from a journal…

A writing used for The Traveler’s Box

Once he returned from his travels there was so much to sort through. So many memories – which ones to keep and which to let go – who remembered and who to let go.

Something like that…what if we reach a point of fullness that requires us to make choices.


So I will be making my way through memories and cupboards.


Cormac MCarthy from The Crossing

“Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes, of a different size and color, a certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us, they no longer have a name.”

Til later

Something New

Let’s get the Drawing a Day over with first.

I am back to drawing

feathers like these found bluejay

ones left on the trail.


Just three small feathers

from six were picked today

just because they were.


Two dried colored leaves

from the bowl on the table

were chosen today.


A small collection

for the last page of sketches

was chosen today.


I have now started the last of the books I made to do these drawings and haiku. It should take me to the end of December. I question whether I want to continue with it. It has become addictive but I think I have drawn everything that looks interesting and much that was not. My skills have improved and if I stop do I lose what I have gained? We will see.

BUT the other day I got to thinking that there are so many more sketchbooks I have filled over the years. I photographed some of the pages from several. And one thing I do know is that I lost my confidence using a pen to sketch quickly. Here are just a few of the favorites.

A sketch of a fencer I welded using spare bits of metal. It stood about three feet tall. I loved this and another one I did charging forward.

The corner of Toby’s bar in Coupeville on Whidby Island, Washington.  I would often go here for fresh mussels, crusty bread and a beer, It was the first place I heard Nora Jones.

A man at a neighboring table at an outdoor cafe in Montreal where my Canadian friend and I had the best time celebrating our MFAs from graduate school.

I used to be able to just pull out my pen and do these quickly…and if they were “off”, just add scribbles in those places.

I also thought it would be fun to show the watercolored illustrations of so many of my sketchbooks.

And some books had assorted ways of recording the places, ideas, thoughts….

And out of the blue, a return to the safety of graphite and eraser.

Some books were used as collecting places of objects and information.

And others like this Artist Retreat Book were secret places for the complexities of being among other artists and egos.

And what struck me while going through these journals were the words written there on pages with and without drawings.

So I am transcribing them in a document titled, “Excerpts from Journal Writings”. And I will use them here as an addition to my usual that seems tedious at times. They are recorded memories of places that have at times led to additional writings of short stories or poems or just phrases that caught hold of something important.

Here is one.

Highlands Botanical Gardens – June 28, 2007

I walked the gardens early this morning and noticed this free lecture offered tonight. Writer Ron Rash.

The gardens are lovely – a nice walk – took a few pictures.

What I think I love most about Nature Centers is the decrepit stuffed specimens – especially the birds. They look so dead. Their bodies seem to have shriveled away from their feathers and beaks, and yet there is something almost noble about the way they “hover” on the branches and perch next to their nests – all behind glass and fully on view.

I think I have spotted Mr. Rash. A “bird-watching´ look about him – small glasses and carrying his notes. I am sitting on the aisle behind an Asian couple. No one wants to cross in front of me as long as I am writing. Most people here seem to know each other – typical Highlands, most are elderly and with “means”.

The stuffed birds and I watch. I might add that the large black bear on rollers has been brought out to face forward like the rest of us.

They could use better backgrounds on their dioramas.

“Good evening.” Oops, Gary Winer, the director here and not the speaker, introduces Ron Rash. He is taller and wears no glasses, looks fairly academic…Southern poet, 53 years old and affiliated with my alma mater, Western Carolina University.

He opens with the last line of a poem, For the last Wolverine, by James Dickey, author of Deliverance.

“Lord let me die, but not die out.”

It will be a sad night of commentary on the fragility of our world. And a stuffed bear may have just nodded in agreement.


I was happy to come across this in a journal that also held pages of how it felt to teach a two week workshop at Penland….a dream come true. I like that without putting much thought into something, I just wrote in the moment. By doing this it all comes back…the scene, the smells, the sounds.

So each blog will have something besides just me, Lee and what I may or not be working on….but something from back there, somewhere, from my bag of past experiences.

So here is a good illustration of what I am talking about.

Remember the installation artist Nick Cave? Well in the year 2000 I volunteered to help dress his dancers for a performance. I quickly sketched in pen the movements of the dancers and the costumes.

Then when I returned home I wanted to capture that memory in a book form. Nick gave me two pieces that fell off a costume and I used them here on the cover of the book I made.

This is one of those pop out constructions that captured the movement of the performance and gave me places to stick on additional sketches to float in front of others. (One thing I learned in John Risseuew”s class in 1994 was you shape the book around the content.)

I made only two of these, one for me and the other to send to Nick.

Not long after, I received this gift from him. He and his partner had a textile business in Chicago and he used some of the cloth they designed to fuse to this large hard covered blank journal. A lovely devore of velvet.

Of course I wasn’t sure how or what to write in the book….too precious and all that.

Then I bought a book on how to write by author Elizabeth Berg. This small paper back was filled with timed prompts that had an appeal. I had no problem setting the timer and getting it down. Nick’s book was used for that and will be again because there are just way too many empty pages left in it.

Here is just one of her many writing prompts.

A smell coming from a restaurant – memories – stream of consciousness writing – what is it?

I smell pancakes – buckwheat pancakes! They make me think of MomMae and the farm kitchen of Nate and Myrtle, and Freckles, the springer spaniel with his head just under MomMae’s hem. If he can see no one, then no one can see him…a very dumb dog waiting for leavings, droppings from spatula to plate. I’d like to go back once more just to see and smell and hear all that again. That twangy music on the radio, something about geese flying away, the pancakes, the melting butter pushing syrup over the edges onto the plate.

And then my time was up. But how wonderful of Ms. Berg to make me remember all that. As for the author, I think I looked her up and saw she wrote more romance novel type things, books I likely wouldn’t read, but her guide book for writing remains one of my favorites.

So thanks for staying with this so far. I will stick more writings and more pictures in as I go.

Now I am going to transcribe more journal entries with the time I have left today. But before I go, here is a sample of my winter’s way to spend time with Lee while watching television. I was inspired by the charming embroidered scraps of cloth by Ann Lamb. This one is stitched into a contact print on heavy paper done on my last trip to Australia.

And this morning Lee and I unwrapped a previously unsuccessful contact print of our leaf collecting. This may dry to something useful. The bit of muslin holding these strips of paper is also drying.

Til later.



Caregiving Considerations

Lee and I did not do our walk today. It was more than just the rain. He had a hard night of digestive problems and a very confused morning. I got him showered, dressed and back down for a nap. When he awoke he seemed listless, unstable and a bit ornery.

Thank goodness it was a caregiver day. I turned him over to her and made a dash to the grocery store. Our intestinal tract medicines were fifteen years past use by dates. Evidently I need to pay more attention to what is and is not in the cabinet.

By the time I returned a nurse who works for the caregiving company agreed to come out and check his vital signs. And the caregiver got him to take two sips of herbal tea. His spirits were much better but still wobbly. I might have to have a gate put across the stairs going down to my studio. He refused to use a walker and had another nap. The nurse came and checked him out. She also gave me some recommendations for supplements to ask our doctor about.

And I also realized that the only pants he has are jeans with buttons, zippers and belt buckles….so I went on Amazon to get some pull on track pants for the next time he has difficulties.

I bought myself two bottles of wine to add to my supply. Tomorrow I will make the Healing Soup of equal parts broccoli, asparagus and spinach with onion and chicken stock. It is so tasty and really does make everything better. Sort of like a visiting nurse in a bowl.

My daughter’s partner sent me a black squirrel tail that I had to try making two more brushes with, Very hard to hang onto those cut hairs….but I made these two.

I used a chopstick and a piece of black bamboo with loads of wrapped waxed linen and glue.

Here are the last four days of drawings.

It could well be that

most yard birds contributed

to this crude paint brush.


The tip of squirrel’s tail

made a very fine paintbrush!

So worth repeating!


Black squirrel tail hairs

were irresistible fun

for new paint brushes.


A bamboo chopstick

makes a great paint brush handle

for these black tail hairs.


There is not much else new. I had no time in the studio today but did manage to get it picked up quite a bit. Soon I will start packing some things away to pass on. Passing on was the best part of having private students here. But since that can’t happen between caregiving and covid, I will find another way to let these things go.

Til later when I can do more talking about other things.