Back to Drawing

This morning walking back from the corner. My day started with the gym, grocery store and coffee on the corner with some fresh bran muffins.

Last Friday I had a delightful six hours with an old friend from the basket making world. I rescued a bunch of broccoli to make a nice creamy/cheesy soup to serve with my latest spinach scones for lunch before picking her up and bringing her home. Judy comes into the area once a year to teach and this was the first time she has seen my new home. Lots of chatting, finishing with a couple of scotches before I took her back. This Wednesday another visitor from the before is coming to visit. A student in several classes over the years is back in town taking another workshop and wanted to visit. I am excited to catch up with her.

In the studio the past few days I have been working on the latest book with basket samples inside. I finished up the double page drawings of a way to start a base.

A bit more writing with the sample…

Turn the page and start again…with some favorite materials of shifu threads and a tiny hammer I bought at a market in St. Andrews, Victoria while staying at Baldessin Press Studio.

I took all the spoke pieces and made an overhand knot in the center, then hammered it down to flatten. Next selected earth pigment colored shifu threads to weave the base. These threads were found in the bottom of Anna’s basket that I drew on the first page of this book. Again using a favorite tool from Wafu Works in Hobart, Tasmania. I used it for packing rows of weaving.

More writing and a window..

I was recalling that this group of basket makers in Tasmania used to mark off sections where the Native Hen had made deposits so I could rub papers to spin into colored threads later in the day.

So naturally I had to draw a Tasmanian Native Hen and put a couple scraps of the paper dyed with their beautiful green.

I never spun this sheet into thread…probably because dampening it brought back the smell.  So now it is folded back up and stuffed with other threads made using Tasmanian soils for color back into Anna’s basket.

Speaking of earth pigments, Thursday evening a friend took me to the opening of another art exhibit at the nearby small liberal arts college. It made my heart soar to see such massive canvases encrusted with local pigments. It was appropriately titled, “Place”. The artist is a woman who seemed to share the same passion for marking place in this way. I was glad I took one of my Earth Pigments books to pass on to her. She was surprised and happy to have it. We will hopefully get together and talk more about the thrill of working with gathered color.

Friday we go back to visit classrooms and see what students are doing. I did meet a few of them at the opening and it made me feel good to see such energy and passion in another generation making art. Two of the men in my former art group have affiliations with this college and I hope to run into them again. Oh, to share a bottle with those two and hear what they have been up to these past few years….

A glass of Madeira I treated myself to remembering these favorites from art group.

Then yesterday I decided I needed to get back to Burke and Wills. Judy encouraged me to read some of my stories and show her what I was working on. After reading The Stoat Story, Down the Rabbit Hole, and others, it caused me to bring out the Burke and Wills drawings. This morning I did another that needs to be painted, and started another… hopefully the words will come to put it all together.

Here Wills is getting too big to fit in the house Boris and Belinda, the river rats, left them when they moved south. Not sure where they go next before ending up in the elderly care home.

I must say that it feels good to just lose myself in the lives of an owl and rabbit.

Til later….


The Watcher



She noticed his hair first. White, clean, parted and perfectly combed. He seemed to be showing it off to the other men in the room, most of whose hair could be pressed in place with a dampened palm.

His eyes were blue, accentuated by the blue knit shirt carefully tucked in behind a modest brown leather belt holding up crisply pressed khaki slacks. His shoes were out of sight, hidden by the back of her chair where she draped her jacket. But surely, they were the same brown leather as his belt. The rest of him was too well put together for them not to be.

This man spent time in front of a mirror over his bathroom sink and in front of another full length one hung behind his bedroom door. This type of attention to detail had to be checked over – at least twice.

Alice looked away before he glanced up to see her taking him in.

She could sense when someone was about to catch her watching. A good watcher needs to know when to avert her eyes and feign interest in something or someone else. A good watcher mentally records the observations that will later be written down. Not in note form, but complete long thoughts converted to equally long sentences, written on a yellow legal pad, later when there is time to pour it all out.

It is then that Alice will sink into the details of what has caught her eye and begs to be orderly spread across the blue lines of the paper. Her ballpoint pen must feel the soft bed of layers of pages stacked in the pad to better hold her words in the pressed grooves of writing. When the bottom of the page is reached, Alice tears it off and finishes her sentence on the back side, careful to write and circle the number 2 at the top.

Later when she is satisfied with her “story” as it has raced through sheet after sheet, she will turn the stack over and read through them to make adjustments.

But today she is just getting started.

The white-haired, blue-eyed man was not there to make friends or greet old ones. He was there to be noticed. He could only go so long without eyes upon him and every so many minutes would interrupt the meeting to draw attention and apologize for being a bother.

Alice thought about his need to be noticed. Was it all about ego or was it simply loneliness? She thought it was the latter and went from annoyance with his actions to sympathy. The white-haired, blue-eyed man must simply be lonely.

Elderly single men who have either annoyed previous companions or watched them die off are rarely equipped with the ease their wives had for making new friends. Being chatty and showing interest in someone else was what women do. Not men who, once retired, have little to talk about.

This was Alice’s conclusion after years of watching and listening.

Of course, if he was a golfer, he would say something about golf, and get a conversation going. Same if he was a fisherman. Problem was that he would need another golfer or fisherman to have that exchange of words that lead to stories that lead to meeting up later to keep it going. To make a friend.

Here in this small retirement village, there was too much diversity of backgrounds. And too many men with wives who they depended on to listen. Why start over telling your story when you already had someone that was well-equipped to fill in when lapses of memory occurred and when details were needed to make something clearer.

In a way that is kind of what Alice does. She fills in all the gaps between actual observations with her own imagination. It is a way to fill her time. Words on a page are the physical evidence that she cared enough about something she saw or heard. And it held her attention, not only long enough to get it on a page, but also be developed into a narrative. One she could easily title, access, and read aloud to herself again and again to get lost in the telling.

Lost in her stories is the place Alice most likes to be. Anyone she ever observed, no matter how incredibly boring in reality, became a person she could turn into someone she wanted to spend time with. Over time she had made up many companions worth her time and attention. Some days when she needed them most, Alice would pour herself a scotch, raise her glass in a toast to the rustling of pages and to the people in them that kept her company.

Some of the women she knew sought out the company of others by joining organizations, going to meetings, or watching stories on the television. Anything to not feel the “aloneness” their lives could have if they didn’t keep involved in something outside themselves.

Not Alice. She loved her own company. Having to sit quietly through the time it took to appear to others like someone she wasn’t, was more time than Alice had to give. Well, more than she wanted to give, anyway.

So here she is. At her desk, with a paused pen as she considers the white-haired, blue-eyed man.

Surely, he was single. There is no wife who would have said, “Comb your hair before you go out, dear.” No, that detail of every hair in place is self-inflicted and takes time. Too much time for a shared mirror.

So, what does this man do with his days?

Well, once a week he goes to the grocery store and moves slowly down each aisle, sure that at least three women have looked him up and down. And if they haven’t, he will quietly seek advice on the freshness of produce from a nicely dressed lady sorting through the peppers. From her he can take away a kind smile along with whatever she gave him in conversation.

On Tuesdays he goes to the library. Always at 2 in the afternoon. First, he returns the book he took out the week before. Then he will slowly inch his way down the shelves of mysteries, make a selection, and carry the book back to a table in view of the front door. He will read only the first chapter between glances up to see who might be coming in. When he gets to the second chapter he closes the book and goes to the front desk to show his card to the librarian, who calls him by name. He relishes this bit of familiarity as he tucks his mystery under his arm and heads out the door and back home.

On other days of the week, weather permitting, he will take long walks in the park, sit, and feed the birds the crumbs from stale bread he brings along.

Fridays are reserved for lunch out at one of two small restaurants in town. Like the librarian, the waitresses from both places call him by name as they gesture to his usual table. He orders his weekly hamburger with fries and shakes out his newspaper to read while he waits.

Soon he will forget all about himself and how he looks to others as juices drip from his chin to the obituary page.

Here Alice pauses again.

Should the white-haired, blue-eyed man read of a neighbor’s passing? No, she thinks it best to not kill anyone off in her make-believe ramblings. It’s a small enough community as it is and having someone die off will add a sadness to her story that she will have to tell herself about again and again.

The dripping hamburger juices make her smile, and she leaves him alone and pleased with himself that none has dripped onto his shirt.

So what else can this man do with his time that Alice can put on paper?

He won’t have a dog. A dog requires effort and an emotional attachment that Alice is sure the man couldn’t handle. But a cat! A stray that has taken up residence under his back porch. Yes, a cat is good. Especially an old one that maybe, just maybe, the white-haired, blue-eyed man will miss when one day leads to another where it has not come to the door to look pleadingly for a handout.

But until then Alice thinks the man should have one small thing other than himself that he seems concerned about.

By now Alice has gone through most of her imaginings about the white-haired, blue-eyed man. She stops writing and puts her pages in order. And reads.

What she sees in her words is a man she doesn’t much care for. The fact that she didn’t even bother to give him a name is evidence of how little else she would like to know about him. To be fair she reads through her pages one more time and concludes there is simply nothing more to him.

Here on paper is what she saw in a man who caught her eye and briefly her imagination. She had done all she could with what little he inspired. So she folded the sheets, stuffed them into an envelope and wrote #37 in the upper right hand corner. Opened the drawer and placed it behind the others. Maybe later this week she will watch a #38. If not, maybe the week after.

Alice ran her hand over the other envelopes and paused at #17. She lifted it out and laid it on her desk. Then poured herself a scotch and smiled as she carefully pulled out the pages to spend some time with another man.


The end

Busy Few Days

The weather has been cold and the other morning I saw several mourning doves clustered around the stone pieces in the garden. Few birds come here because I do not have feeders.

This past week saw the passing of Judy Wilford, a master embroiderer in Australia. I was lucky to get this small piece of her work several years ago. It hangs near the front door with other artworks from down under.

She was a master of landscape and birds in small forms. Her third book was released last week. I don’t know fine hand embroiderers here in the states but Australia has several. Jane Nicholas also comes to mind as another Australian who has many books to her credit on fine embroidery techniques. I loved having both these women in my classes over the years. Just watching how they approached their projects was an education in itself. Their work reflects the consummate craftsperson and attention to the tiniest detail that seems lost in much of the needlework I see today. But at least we are still threading needles and feeling cloth between our fingers.

Tonight I am going to another art opening at the small college near me. I believe it has something with the use of earth pigments. It feels good to be back among the art makers. I will let you know how it was.

Two walks this week. The dam…..

And the river near my house.

My basket making friends down under finished with their gathering and are all back home. I told them I would keep my book going and when some of them gather again in April, I would maybe have a small lesson to share with them in my book.

Lots of work to do yet to make it more comprehensible, but I have time.

I missed writing and realized it had been some time since I added to my list of short stories. The past few days with pen in hand, I got something down on paper and will post it on my website  –  short stories from the menu.

Thinking about enrolling in another writing class this spring but need a little more encouragement before making that phone call.

Now there are no lots left across the street. Houses on every one that was available. Now the builder will turn the corner and start up the other end. I don’t see any from my house…only when I walk past to get to the river or drive out of my garage. It is a very quiet neighborhood.

Tomorrow I pick up an old basket making friend who is from the Seattle area and in town teaching. We will spend the afternoon having lunch and a bit of scotch before I take her back to start her weekend class. We only see each other once a year so it will be fun to show her how all the things from my old place found a place here.

Til later…..


Something Different Resulting in a Mid-Afternoon Scotch – with Follow Up

Yesterday I wrote this all down as I was recording what might be the next blog….Somewhere in the night I told myself, “Nah, don’t post it.” But today I think it really captures what it is like being alone in your own space adjusting materials and thoughts in good company and having a legal pad and slick ball point pen that can keep up nearby.

So I will start there…as written.

January 21, 2023

I am writing this on a Saturday afternoon, 3 p.m.

A banana bread just went into the oven. The kitchen is cleaned up and now I am back in the studio surrounded by scraps of paper and cloth.

And my iPhone is tuned to Lyle Lovett Radio. The music jogs memories.

Lovett sings of $10 worth of what he values most. I love it that one of those things is a poetry book that he loves more than the woman who wrote it for him.

Willie Nelson has a voice that can make you want to live in Texas. But the reality of being a woman in Texas brings me back here in the studio where he is temporarily on loan, keeping me company with my things and memories.

I have poured myself a scotch to better just sink into this mood that is hard to describe. It is a comfortable, mellow place that begs to be put into words.

Jackson Browne was just applauded by those who loved hearing him in person. I give a smile of appreciation toward the iPhone.

John Prine just strings the best and simplest words together and chuckles as he does it.

Keb’ Mo’ sings about women like they matter more than his guitar. Nice.

Then there is an occasional Bob Dylan, who makes me happy to have a scotch to fall back on. Obscure lyrics that end about the time I take a guess as to what he is saying.

So that is pretty much the musical part of my afternoon. The best I can say is it is “comfortable”. Does the generation behind me have comfortable music?

Oooh, here is Van Morrison with his extra syllables.

“Time is slipping away”

“She is only queen for a day”

Today is my queen day and they don’t come often. I sometimes wish I had a bit of company for them. But soon talk myself out of that. What if they hated Lyle Lovett? What if they thought only “classical music” was the way to access deep places in the heart? What if they wished they were some place else? I have saved them the dilemma of how to make their exit by not inviting them in.

Here is what is going on to get me here with scotch and the Lyle Lovett station. My basket making friends from down under have finished their gathering and all gone home, leaving me here with this just-started book I am working on to sort of feel like I am sharing in their fun….a way to be “with” them.

So I drew some more weave structures and picked up scraps of paper and cloth to stitch together. They were doing the same with their bits of cloth while they chatted away about what might go with what and their aged, sore fingers from making baskets.

They are on my mind as I stitch odd bits together. A piece of botanically printed paper bordered by a rusted paper piece, a scrap of cloth recently sent by one of them there, a flowered paper from a bar of soap, and a strip of paper made in Claudia Lee’s class.

How do I know when this collage is finished? When is it ready to glue down and turn the page?

When I picked up the paper from Claudia’s workshop, I remembered what I spent most of my time doing in that class. Here it is as it sits on a shelf in my house, near a felted “journal” page made by Chad Hagen.

It is a boat I made for me to row away in. With only one oar I was just going in circles with my bundle of belongings. One of which holds a jingle bell to remind me there are happy times wherever I was headed back then.

Do other artists put so much immediacy of emotions into their work? I hardly talked to anyone in that workshop and have not taken another since….. four and a half years.

Then when I decided this bit of sewn pieces looked “finished”, it became about how to fit it on the page.

The filler folio did not reach to the top. Would that bother anyone else? I don’t know. But I needed a small stitched scrap to cover the 1/16th” gap.

I like this page. So much thinking and remembering and touch of longing went into each placement and stitch.

The scotch is almost finished and the banana nut bread is ready to come out of the oven.

I like this blog. So thanks for hanging in there. You are “the mystery companion” Jackson Browne is now singing about. Thanks.


Now the follow up.

I should have checked the recipe when I had doubts about 1 teaspoon of baking soda instead of baking powder. The banana bread never rose but cooked itself into a nice solid, heavy but tasty flat loaf. I will take it in tomorrow to the boys. They will eat most anything.

Today I thought it a good idea to use up some chopped onion I bought. So made more scones. This time adding a full cup of those onions and extra salami to my spinach and cheese mixture.

They didn’t rise much either…..there is a limit to how much you can cram into a scone and still expect it to puff up.

Still a good breakfast or lunch though.

And just a quick return to Lyle Lovett. In a nod to his “Pony on a Boat”, I keep them close together on my mantle.

And Australia greets me every time I open the front door.

Til later….