Beautiful Days – Slow Progress

The meadow grasses on my walk from the gym to the new house. Another house is going in next to mine. I am now boxed in on each side.

I have checked all my tree books and can not find out what kind of tree this is.

A rough crude bark that attracts lichen. Leaves that are smooth edged with veins coming off the center vein and drooping their way to the edge. Almost pillowy between veins. It stands about fifteen feet or so high and is right outside my living room windows.

I kept up my walks at the dam and riverwalk.


And this beautiful foam flower nestled among maiden hair ferns.

This morning after my work out, I walked over to the Indian Mound to see if I could find another tree like the one behind my new house.

Nothing like it there. And then the fog drenched field over toward my new place.

Where the only change was some grading and piles of top soil to be graded around the back.

So I just came home, had my coffee and breakfast. And when the fog lifted I went to another town and hardware to find fans and lighting for over the island sink in the new house. There was the perfect helper who spent a generous hour plus helping me get to what I expected the fixtures to do in the places they would be going. When I told him what would be in the visual space around the living room fan, we found the perfect one. It is a flat black with blades that are designed differently to scoop more air and will look perfect between the two large African carved masks. And although I was convinced that I would need a pendant light hanging over the island sink, we came to the sensible conclusion that it would interfere with the visual openness of the area and compete with the fan now chosen that is only being maybe ten feet away, he showed me a recessed ceiling light that can be set to warm light and give off a large canopy of light below. Perfect!

It really helped that he is an artist and even gave me a quick lesson on how he addresses his canvas when doing en plein air painting. He and I figured that what I saved would purchase a very nice and very old bourbon or single malt.

I also bought a nice fan with attached light for the porch that will really stir the air on humid still days. The remaining three fans for the den, master bedroom and guest room are not as important but I am thinking ceiling “huggers” just to keep them up away from the first view when walking into the rooms. I thought of fans like these for low ceilings only but they are far more versatile. Nine foot ceilings will keep them in their place.

I have made a list of what I want completed here in the way of packing up in the next two months. The studio and last of the office are next. The apartment has been packed up. Several things going north with Amy, Patrick and Marla. The rest of the things in the cupboards there plus some books, etc., went off with the cleaning lady yesterday. She has access to so many more places to give them to than I do and I am so grateful she happily loads her car with a promise to take more when she comes back in two weeks.

Things are moving along. Next week my house here officially goes on the market. The pond cleaner comes on Tuesday, the photographer on Wednesday  and Thursday it starts.

Til later….


We Might Be Losing Our Words

When I go on my early morning walks I am completely alone most of the time. Once I take the obligatory photo of where I am to let my family know I’m still at it, my pace is set and my mind clears. Then I pick a thought to spend time alone with for the next half hour or so. And the other day it was about language and how we don’t hear as many words as we used to. They are not being used so much. The ones that came to mind first were adjectives such as marvelous, gorgeous and charming. The generations behind me have become disconnected with the use of words like this. Adverbs as well seem to be waning. Smartly dressed, largely accurate.

Personally I think it is the ease of texting on cell phones. You can say what you have to say in a brief form and if a response comes back, fine. If not, then send another. Sooner or later they will get back with an equally brief text. In fact the cell phone can even out think you and jump to the word you might be looking to poke in with your finger tips. And forget proper grammar; cell phones are programmed to not even go there!

But back when we wrote words by hand in letters, all those extra words were necessary to convey how we felt, what we wanted the recipient to understand.

And I know by now that I have lost a certain percent of you because it looks like I have no more pictures, only words that have to be read left to right, line after line… “My god, what is she on about?”

I found this journal entry that I wrote almost thirty years ago. I think it is relevant.


Letters – a journal entry

Letters. We don’t write them much anymore. Just notes on postcards or a line or two on greeting cards that we choose because it reflects a sentiment, we feel but don’t want to commit to handwriting. Then there are those computer-generated newsletters. There is something cold and impersonal about these regardless of the intention. Without the personal involvement that handwriting brings, these become less-than-sincere attempts at communication from the heart.

I miss receiving real letters that contain real feelings, observations and opinions. And what’s worse, I miss writing them. Now the urge to record those things is directed to a personal journal. But here, there is no feedback. It’s a one-way conversation and I don’t have the accountability. No one will dispute or question or ask to know more. Furthermore, writing and recording in a journal seems so much more permanent and unalterable…. not like a letter that is stuffed in an envelope, stamped and sent off onto a tenuous journey to anywhere.

The best letters I ever wrote were sent to my mother. I didn’t really think much about them over the years. I liked writing and in a letter my thoughts were not interrupted by, “Yes” and “Really”, as in a phone call.

I had known for some time that my mother had always kept my letters in a large box. And as her health failed and she ceased to write back, she would drop my latest letter in the box. Then pull them out at random to read and re-read.

When she passed away recently the box was sent to me. I knew it was coming and braced myself for a great wave of sadness. There was still so much in my life that I needed to share with her. So, with trepidation I opened the carton and looked at the piles of envelopes and cards. Everything was there. My whole adult life to that point. From sixteen years of age through twenty-five years of marriage and the rearing of two children. Even the photos of family, friends and artwork were there. She kept it all. I was never so completely hit by who I am and how I got here. It was all documented by my own hand.

And rather than sadness as I randomly pulled a letter out, I became lost in my own history. There was very little of my thoughts and feelings that were not there in that box, recorded exactly as I felt them at the time and shared with the one person who would accept them all unconditionally. And hold them close for years to come.

I remember a line in a movie where one of the characters said she had to go and write a letter to her father. When asked, “Why don’t you just call?”, the response was, “Because when I hang up, he has nothing to hold onto.”

My mother held these letters for years and I now have them back to read, laugh and cry as I hold them close and remember. I really am going to miss writing letters to her.


Without that connection of our thoughts through the heart to a hand holding a tool designed to carefully and slowly convey a message as we ponder how to best express ourselves, will we even know they understand the importance of what we are saying?

Example: Text – “She looked nice.”

No, that is not enough. It should say, ” She looked beautiful in a dress obviously chosen to accent her blue eyes and hide the thickening waistline of someone her age.”  Here there is information that makes the recipient of the message wish they had indeed accepted the invitation so they could have seen her for themselves.

Anyway, I suppose it is a moot point, all this talk of short-handing our thoughts to fit the new format of text messaging. Adverbs and adjectives will fade with handwriting. Only poets will be left to remind us of how our words can be used. And when we stumble across their verses we will say things like, “how quaint”, “how charming.”

At least I hope we do…resort to saying “charming” again.

Other news. My new desk arrived. My new place to write and draw.

That long narrow drawer pulls out and the face drops down to hold a keyboard, but in my case the laptop will live in there. Drawers will hold drawing tools and paper.

Some new pictures of the town I am moving to….

The town library just up the hill from my house and a fellow just keeping watch in front of a store.

And a new sketch in my Riverwalk House Book of the electrician’s shorthand.

The papers are all signed with the realtor and the house officially goes on the market May 12th. I am ready.

Til later….

Three Days Later

The front door is hung…held open so I dared not close it. A side panel of lite next to the door itself.

A walk at the dam.

And bear with me while I show the almost exhaustive yellows of this morning’s riverwalk. Then we will get to good follow up things.

And such a lovely place for a critter to live.

And this wonderful view of the river slowly filling with the dam releases.

I couldn’t help all those yellows…so Spring-like! The only thing perhaps prettier in yellow are the cheeks of a goldfinch.

Now for other news in last few days. The Riverwalk (name of the subdivision) print is finished and at the framers. I found just the tiniest scraps of tar-like roofing in the scraps of the house two days ago. They seemed perfect! So between them and my carved crows, I made the narrative piece to remind me I now have neighbors.

My house is the one in the middle. The crow flying away represents Lee while my crow is just getting settled and like my neighbor, it will eventually simply move in. This print was on the top of the stack I took to the framers yesterday and I was prepared for her to give me the side eye of disapproval…but she blurted out right away how much she liked it! Here are the details.

And the blocks arranged into their own house.

I like the sense of visual urgency about this project. In a crazy way the house is finished even though the doors just got hung…and it makes me smile. I now have neighbors.

And because I have always loved these next two prints but never framed them for myself, they too are at the framers.

The Tasman Tree wood block print colored with the watercolors made from Australian soils. And The Daily Grind, a collograph of all the ways I have been served coffee….done in a coffee brown ink.

For those wondering how it was done. I first textured a plate with the five cut out spaces for the small collographs that were inked before placing them face down into the center of each embossed rectangle and running it through the press a second time. It will hang over the counter in the kitchen near my coffee maker. The framer had a perfect match of oak wood for it to hang between the cabinets stained similarly.

And finally the large grey owl chine colle”d print that has laid on the dining room counter waiting for me to make up my mind. It won out.

This new house will have many wood block prints on the walls. It is the mark of the hand that appeals so much to me. You look at them and you can see gnarly hands making decisions that can’t be taken back…purely gut instinct….and the sound of wood being scraped away. You  can smell the paper and ink behind the glass. They will be such good companions and encourage me to stay at it in my work space in the garage.

And finally a little story about yesterday.

While dining alone at the pizza place in the town I am moving to, a lady, not too much older than me, stopped to kiss me on the forehead, smile and tell me to enjoy my meal. I thanked her and she went to stand by the door. Her companion came up and explained in a hushed tone that the woman suffered from Alzheimer’s and hoped I did not mind. I did not mind one bit because I simply could not remember when someone kissed my forehead…probably my mother sending me off to bed.

So with the lady in the restaurant, the doors being hung in the new house, the enthusiasm for my work by the framer and so much yellow that I had to keep myself from simply flopping down into it, it has been a nice few days.

The realtor and my new desk arrive tomorrow!

Til later….

Getting There With Diversions

The new bed quilt set arrived…soft as a kittens tummy. And the color is perfect because it will go with the grey walls of the room and the large painting that will hang overhead. …..aptly named Starting Over – Coming Home.

A walk out to the dam and another over to the new house. Progress! Finishing siding…

And the porch…

So nice to see a door hung. I met the electrician to go over where wiring will need to be. Such a delightful man. Very helpful and thought of all the things I did not. Like, “If you are getting out of your car here with a six pack of beer, you want that little garage refrigerator here and not over there.” That advice determines where an outlet needs to be. And so we walked through every room and talked about what furniture would be where. He kept asking if I was sure there was not to be a television in the living room or bedroom. I assured him that only in the den/office was fine. He was also good at telling me about how many recessed ceiling lights would be enough and I could have some of them dimmable. They will let me know before the drywall goes in to see if I want to make changes. Nice.

I made another two cups of lemon myrtle gin and celebrated with an Australian flavored G & T.

When I would walk over to the house these past couple of months I collected scraps of two by fours. I wanted them different lengths to carve into house shapes for block printing. Friends in Australia have set our art challenge for the year based on letters of the alphabet. April is the letter “H”. Perfect for me to think of house as the topic to interpret. So last week I carved.

I wanted them to be in there natural state with just carved spaces that would not receive the color. And I must say I have been following the Ukrainian printmaker, Olesya Dehuraeva, who lives in Kviv and has been finding scraps of wood and using them to print with the black soil of her devastated area. The pieces are haunting and have a sense of the hurry with which she must be working to stay safe.

Even though I planned on making these prints from two by four scraps with my watercolor made from the house site, Olesya’s prints showed me again that the intention of the artist must take precedence over any other considerations, and to just do it.

So, find a brush, get the watercolor soft enough to transfer enough color onto the block and print quickly.

I had to soften the surface beneath the printing paper and sometimes hit the block with a wooden mallet. It was easy to go over again if necessary because I had marked off where each block would be printed.

I looked at it, but not for long before deciding it would be fun to stitch around each house so I punched the holes through the heavy paper first.

Then I stitched it with a very dark brown thread.

I had erased all the pencil guide lines before. Then I sprayed it with a fixative before steam pressing the paper flat…well sort of.

And guess what! I didn’t like it! Still don’t. So this morning I spaced the houses further apart and made a change in one of them. It is drying thoroughly before I think of what I want to do next to it. Scraps of something like tar paper would be fun to cut into strips to add as roofs but I will make another trip to the site to see what is there.

Something tells me it needs a black crow and I have one I carved a long time ago. I will wait and see where it goes next. But my thought was that when satisfied, I would have it framed and hung over the front door on the way out to remind me I do have neighbors now.

Isn’t it odd how Olesya’s scrap wood and black soil images make your heart sink. And mine in this somewhat cheery yellow ochre of my new home can make me smile. Both our intentions have been met.

And if I feel like threading a needle I have this to work on.

I cut up the owl print that I thought needed cloth and stitch added. Then found more cloth to piece the pieces together. I am going to fill it with more of those randomly directed black marks until I either like it or just say, “I don’t like that at all.” And give it a toss. It is so funny how easily we can deceive ourselves into pathetic being passable. Or passable being perfect.

This morning the fellow came to clean the shop before repainting it. By the time he finished it no longer needs painting. It almost sparkles. I pawned a swivel rocker off on him and we were both delighted. I cleaned the porch that was covered in pollen and am relieved that there is so little to move or pack up out here. My cleaning lady will take all I don’t have a home for and donate it to her church.

It is sunny and quite warm today.  I can see the leaves popping out at the tips of branches. Lee and I would have been sipping a beer and feeling lucky to have such a view. I am ready to leave and hope to meet with the realtor this week.

It turns out he does not need difficult dental work and is eating most of his meals.

More later…..