All About the Power of Leaves

This is the next book from Lorraine in Australia that she sent for me to draw into. I have two more after this one. Here I will put sticks and stones in among her Eucalyptus leaves and then hide bones in the pocket enclosures at the bottom. All of it will be using the stippling technique I have been practicing in my Marks book.

Here are the latest leaf images from that book.


I don’t think I like using colored pencils. Their waxiness seems in opposition with the texture of the paper…no wonder they include that rolled up paper smudging tool that I do not use! I also do not like how I have to go over my sharp black lines because the colored pencil clouds them. When I turn the page it is going to be back to black ink in finer lines and put the pencils away. I tried. But it is my book and it is supposed to bring me peace. The pencils are just too aggravating.

Lee and I went out to walk the trail two days ago because it was so beautiful and warm out. It was the first walk there since late fall. The angle of the light late in the day was lovely to photograph.

So, in those images is a decided lack of leaves. Lee has blown what he is allowed to blow with his blower into oblivion. We are back to removing rocks from one place and putting them into another. He likes this but needs help with where to get them and where to put them. Last fall I could just tell him once and he would carry on…..not so much now. I get to help with my own suggestion.

Caregivers are still sorting out who comes on a regular basis. We had a substitute the other day who was very good at sitting and watching TV. I could tell Lee had hoped for more. ..we had our evening drink early that day.

Speaking of which…and this definitely has to do with leaves….remember my assorted bottles of infused vodkas? And how I thought I was told bay leave instead of basil?

Well, let me tell you that although none of us knows what the heck bay leaves taste like because we are told to remove them before eating….the infused vodka is nothing short of wonderful! I had to look up the flavor of bay leaves and found they were something akin to a mint in flavor. But beyond that I found a note of anise. I think that this is a vodka that will be sipped without adding anything to it. There are drink recipes online for bay leaf flavored vodka but it would be a shame to mask the flavor.

For my gin aficionados in Australia where they make the best ever gins at small boutique distilleries, if you have the time, give this vodka a try… three bay leaves in a pint of vodka.

Just got a call from the caregiver company and the schedule is set for next week….four afternoons of getting back to my short story, maybe some sewing and reading the book that was replaced for the one cut up. Might celebrate with a sip of vodka!

Til later.

Trying New Things

I think this is one of my most favorite pages. Shapes separated by altering the marks. I think on a larger scale this could be made much more complex. You could not go much smaller because the thickness of line determines how tight you can make marks…but bigger! Yes!

A place to work large and the added time to even begin are just not quite possible right now.

And the next page. A cityscape and an idea.

I prefer the organic shapes of the landscape over the architectural spaces.

I started with just the puzzle pieces with fine diagonal lines. Then colored them in with colored pencils. I did not like them. So drew in the three rectangular shapes coming from the right and filled in behind them with repetitive marks. Next I filled in the vast white spaces of the rectangles with vertical black marks. Still too much white so filled in the spaces between with other marks. By now I really did not like the puzzle pieces so thickened their outlines and diagonal lines.

Next I convinced myself that I should just return to marked spaces to start the next page with the intention of filling it all in. I was inspired to stay with the black and white when Robyn Gordon shared this image of Suzanne Sullivan’s cups.

Changed my mind because I wasn’t giving the coloring in much of a chance, so drew in Eucalyptus leaves to only color half in a color I am more comfortable with….greens.

This morning I turned the page and did more leaves with additional shading in the color section.

The color pencils dull the sharpness of the black lines so I have to go over them again. I have to stay with the pencils because not all the black pens are waterproof. Otherwise I would prefer watercolors.

The next leaf contact print from Lorraine is more pale and yellow than the others I have used. I am planning to fill it with the stippling technique to show nothing but sticks and stones…and then in the fold down hidden section stipple in bones. My only decision yet to make is are they all in black, or a brown pen or combination. Using the two together on a stone might look pretty good. Maybe keep my bones and sticks in black…still thinking.

Lee just opened the door to see if I was okay and seemed fine to just leave me here working. He has a new substitute caregiver today. Our regular one just suddenly quit after telling me on Friday that she was good for four days a week. Monday and today are new ones to Lee but he really doesn’t remember them anyway as soon as they are gone. That is a good thing but I get disappointed because I think I can depend on sameness. What I can depend on is that the company will do their best to get fill-ins until they get another more a permanent one. Tomorrow another new one and judging from the name could be a male. That might be fun for a change. We take what we can get during this time of Covid.

I have three and one half hours left today so will get back to another short story.

One more thing…my poetry books are arriving in Australia. Here is Mem with hers….It makes me feel so good to see her happiness with it. She wrote that the title poem was quite relatable for her.

And then this from out west that moved me to tears.

Hello Sandy, I would normally send a card but that would just take too long in the snail mail. We are honored to receive Trusting the Tether Line over the weekend. It is a profound peek into your lives and we thank you for that candidness. We who aren’t so gifted as to expressing our feelings in words can feel the emotions spilling out. You always amaze me. I love art but sadly I am not an artist. You however have set an extraordinary high bar for creativity and artistry just by being you. I have often wondered where do all those ideas come from but that is who you are. Amazing.

I miss my friends….

Til later…..


What Would Jesus Do?

Ellie was leaning over the kitchen sink listening to the Christian radio station and wondering what to do with her vegetables. If she put the same old vegetables in the same old pot, how was the soup not going to taste the same as it did a few days earlier? Five months ago when her husband, Gerald passed, she was glad to not have to fix meat dishes anymore. Meat required some degree of planning ahead. Would it be beef or pork that needed thawing? Would it be fried or baked? How long could she serve it as leftovers before Gerald realized there was no meat in the casserole? Just vegetables and noodles with a can of creamed soup.

That was Ellie’s favorite, noodles and vegetables with either cream of mushroom or cream of onion soup stirred in. Smash up some saltines for a topping with a bit of shredded cheese and pop it in the oven. She could get four meals out of that one casserole dish. Sometimes when she didn’t feel like scrubbing, peeling and chopping vegetables, she’d just open a can of tuna fish and mix that in instead. Tuna wasn’t meat. It was fish. Just like her sockeye salmon in the red can. With canned salmon she’d mix in some of those smashed up saltines, add an egg, shape into patties and fry in butter. She rather enjoyed the crunch of those fish vertebrae that were left in the can with a bit of salmon skin….added texture.

She turned on the kitchen tap to clean the morning’s harvest of six potatoes, four carrots, two bird-pecked tomatoes and one large onion when she heard the preacher on the radio ask, “What would Jesus do?” Stupid question, Ellie thought, he’d do what he always does, the right thing. These preachers always tossed out two options for Jesus when they were getting to the end of addressing their flock. A congregation of people Ellie thought might be a bit dense to even waste time deliberating on an answer. One option was nasty, mean, thoughtless, and the other was kind, forgiving, and tender. Of course Jesus was going to go for the latter. He had years of practice and did not need anyone giving him advice. Why didn’t those preachers use their Jesus connections to find out something useful?

“Is the neighbor’s dog ever going to stop barking?”

“How do you feel about hip replacements?”

“You had a way with water. Do you have any idea how to elevate these vegetables beyond soup?”

But no, the preacher always asked, “What would Jesus do?” after dragging out some dramatic dilemma that would end with this inevitable question just before the half hour was up. Then the news came on for five minutes, and finally Ellie’s favorite, Southern Gospel Hour.

When Gerald died, one of the first things Ellie did was turn the radio dial off his right wing talk show in search of anything else, and stopped when she heard the deep tone of Mahalia Jackson singing, “Take My Hand Precious Lord”. Hearing that hymn took Ellie all the way back to little white dresses, shiny shoes and her dearly loved Louise. They were bittersweet memories of a childhood empty of any affection beyond what the housekeeper showed her.

Ellie smiled remembering every afternoon on her break Louise would push her way into the front porch rocker and hold out her arms. Ellie would scramble up past rolled stockings to a generous lap of folds and flowers. As the chair rocked slowly back and forth she would tell Louise all about her day, making it up as she went and keeping her ear close to Louise’s chest to hear the rumbles of suppressed laughter deep within. After twenty minutes or so, Louise would lift Ellie down, grab her little hands and say, “Pull!” Ellie went back to her swing, Louise into the house to start dinner.

No, she was never going to move that dial any place beyond 84.2 AM Radio.

Ellie thought it was too bad she wasn’t allowed in the kitchen back then. If she was, she’d know what else to do with these vegetables. Because Louise would have shown her. She would have told her all about how those vegetables needed to be cooked and seasoned before dumped hot and buttered into the white dish that Louise held as she served the family. Ellie kept her eye on that dish in Louise’s hands and watch her slide her big thumb over a newly chipped edge before taking up the spoon and serve the vegetables as she moved around the table. First Ellie’s father, then her mother before smiling down at Ellie as she put extra melted butter over the potatoes and carrots that were spooned onto her plate.

Louise was instructed to only serve the vegetables after slicing the meat and placing it to the right of father’s plate. Only he would determine the portions to serve his family. Later Ellie’s mother would be doing the same with the dessert, varying the sizes as she deemed appropriate.

Ellie never went hungry but was always aware that she could be if she didn’t measure up to the servings they gave her. Whatever was needed to be appropriately fed today would be her pattern to follow tomorrow. Simple. She never went hungry and that was good enough.

In all her years with Gerald it was she who served the food at meal time. Put as much as she thought he would eat on his plate and do the same for herself. The table always set for just the two of them. Never any children that needed to be fed. She asked Jesus about that a long time ago but he never got back to her.

As the gospel music filled the kitchen, Ellie, lost in thoughts of Louise, scrubbed and peeled the potatoes and carrots, sliced up the onion and cut out the bad parts of the tomatoes. Then she boiled the potatoes and carrots together in a pot and melted some butter in a pan for the onion slices. When the boiled vegetables were soft enough and drained she mashed them together and liked the color. She liked it very much. Next she slowly stirred in the browned onion slices with a bit of salt and pepper. It looked good. Later she would heat it up in the oven with some cheese slices spread on top and use the tomatoes as a side dish. It made her hungry just thinking about this new dinner combination and how good it smelled. Putting it in the refrigerator for later, Ellie pulled out two slices of bread, an egg to fry in the butter left from cooking the onion and the jar of mayonnaise. Lunch would be one of her favorite sandwiches, an over medium egg between two slices of white bread slathered with mayonnaise.

Tomorrow she would go into town. The milk was beginning to taste funny and fresh green vegetables were needed. Whenever she tried to grow them, bugs, worms and rabbits got to them first. So mostly her green vegetables came from a can. But on the days she went to town, a bag of fresh spinach or kale would come home with her. Whatever she didn’t eat fresh would be chopped up and put into soups and casseroles.

She could be going into town today but had already made other plans.

After lunch and when the kitchen was cleaned up, Ellie headed out to the shed to find a shovel. Today was the day she was finally going to bury Gerald’s guns. God, how she hated those things. She did not want them in the house one more minute. Today was the day to get it done. She never saw Gerald use them. He probably just wanted to own them, then own a few more.

He never went hunting with the men he hung out with in town. He probably wasn’t asked that often. Ellie suspected that he wasn’t asked because it was one more thing that he wasn’t good at, shooting straight. The men never knew how many guns Gerald owned. And even if he told them, they likely would not believe him.

Ellie knew this because one day she overheard one of them say, “Did you ever notice that when Gerald clears his throat, the next thing he says is a lie.” They laughed at that because Gerald always was clearing his throat before finding his voice. And Gerald couldn’t keep from exaggerating. A forecast of flurries was a blizzard coming. A downpour instead of showers. Like Ellie, the men would politely wait for Gerald to finish his predictions and then pick up the conversation where they left off.

There was no way she was going to tell them about the guns she found stored in a chest shortly after Gerald passed. He had taken great care to wrap each one in an old towel before putting the biggest ones on the bottom then placing the smaller ones on top. There had to be more than a dozen in there. Maybe two dozen! When did he buy them? And where did he buy them? Flea markets most likely. Not by mail. Ellie would have seen the boxes. No, had to be from the flea markets when he said he was going out to rummage through old tools that might be useful.

So where to start digging? Some place where the ground was soft. The garden! Where else? At one end Ellie had tried to grow beans. It was not successful. The few that tried to climb her carefully tied strings just seemed to give up after one twist around. There was little effort to climb further and since they were within reach of a rabbit, well that was that. Canned green beans were just as good and more dependable. Yes, down here at the end by the shed was perfect. It was out of sight from the driveway and the neighbor. Now the question was, how deep? How deep did guns need to be in the ground so as not to pose a problem? Three feet seemed like a safe depth. Five feet long and three shovel widths wide. After a little over two feet deep, Ellie thought it was good enough.

She took her wheel barrow around the back of the house and into the garage. Put the guns in in the order she took them out of the chest. That way the long ones would go in first and the small ones could fill in the spaces before going on top. She kept them in their towels just in case someone came by and she could say she was just taking rags to the shed. A few boxes of bullets were also in the chest and those too would go in the hole.

Wheeling her way out of the garage, around back and out to the garden took a bit more time and effort than she thought it would. She rested on the edge of the wheel barrow between the wooden handles and wiped the sweat with her apron. Maybe she should move that old wooden bench by the shed door over the burial site. Plant a few of her woodruff plants under the bench so they could grow there in the shade. Something good should come from Gerald’s gun collection. Might as well be a place to sit and feel the tickle of woodruff on your ankles.

Ellie stood up and pulled out the first long gun. Placed it in the hole and decided to alternate how they went in, just to conserve space. She could feel the barrel end and laid it next to the handle end of another, then the reverse with the next. Once all those were in she carefully spread the short guns over them, and put the boxes of bullets into the corners. When everything was in the hole she shoveled in the fresh dug dirt and packed it down with the back of the shovel.

Next she dragged the old bench over and squared it up on the mound of dirt and took a seat. Looking over her garden Ellie decided that maybe she would do a bit of weeding tomorrow when she came back from town, planted the woodruff, and dug out a few more potatoes.

It was always better to think of the things she might do than look back on the things she’d already done. Those things were over. Ellie had moved on. It may not have always been in a straight line but she stepped away from her yesterdays with hardly a glance back. She would square her shoulders and slip easily into another day of doing the things she planned on doing. She might have to make adjustments if something unexpected came up but managed to either take care of it or pretend it wasn’t happening. Easy. Living alone and old age simplified her life, her routines and responsibilities. Ellie enjoyed what could be called a “controlled aloneness”. Be seen hanging something on the line once in a while kept the neighbor from stopping by too often to see if she was okay. If there were tea towels and underwear pinned there then Ellie must be fine.

Still the neighbor would check in every few weeks if she had not seen Ellie in town or out in the yard. She was much younger than Ellie and a regular church goer. Or so Ellie thought because when she went back to her own yard, she’d wave and say, “Have a blessed day.” Only Jesus people say that. Ellie would smile and roll her eyes heavenward as if to give recognition to where blessings came from.

The only other person to come by was her old friend Margaret coming at lunch time to have some of Ellie’s soup and make suggestions. Those visits were much more appreciated. Ellie liked Margaret’s company. They were both widows of a similar age. Margaret being the more sociable of the two would come by for a visit if she had the time, bringing fresh bread from the bakers or some homemade jam in the hope Ellie would invite her to stay for lunch. Not that she enjoyed Ellie’s vegetable soup that much but it was a meal she did not have to eat alone. On the other hand, Ellie only left her house to get groceries, do her town business and come back home. No stopping to chat.

Another difference between the two was that Margaret missed her deceased husband and Ellie did not miss Gerald. Not in the slightest. If there was a rating scale for husbands, one to ten, ten being the highest, Ellie would have put Gerald at a solid 3.5 with an occasional 4. He would have received a higher rating if there was just one time Ellie could recall Gerald asking if she’d like to go out to dinner.

She didn’t think Gerald was a bad husband. He was simply Ellie’s only husband, so there really was no personal experience for comparison. Getting together seemed the right thing to do when neither one of them had anyone else in their lives. They were loners but not lonely. Neither one of them had any expectations of the other. Gerald worked, Ellie took care of the house and kept him fed. She had noticed early on in the marriage that they preferred their own company to that of each other. Problem was that although Ellie assumed Gerald wasn’t a bad man, she had no idea if he was a good one. Gerald just was. And after he retired Gerald was always somewhere around, showing up at meal times. They didn’t talk much because there was nothing to talk about. Neither of them had questions or answers if there had been. Over fifty years of shared space and considerable silence seemed to make the marriage work. And continue to work with a certainty of going on for even more years.

So when Ellie came back in the house five months ago and found Gerald laying on the floor, red faced and gripping a meat-filled sandwich he made himself, she did not come closer. Instead she backed up quickly so as not to hear a last gasp if there was going to be one, and waited twenty more minutes in the garage.

That should be enough time for Jesus to figure out what he was going to do.


Just a Few Days Later

I finally finished the Fairy Book!

This was fun to do and I dragged it out as long as possible. Now I will dig out another of Lorraine’s books and start on a new theme playing off her contact leaf printed pages.

And inspired by Kent’s calendar pages I added lots of designs in the Marks Book.

I started a landscape this morning using these marks to delineate the sections of hills and trees, etc. Another fun idea.

The sun has been deceiving. It is cold with the wind and Lee seems to be stuck inside with constant trips out to see if it got warmer. I stop whatever I am doing to help him in or out of his coat and hat and gloves every fifteen minutes until he gives up and stays in. There is nothing we have come up with to keep him occupied inside that has the appeal of going outside.

Starting this week we will have a caregiver coming in for four to five hours on Monday,  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. Hopefully I can get to some sewing and reading.

Here is his inside lap buddy.

Til later.