call of the garden


This is the time of year when the ostrich ferns seem to grow right before your eyes! Being outside so much with Finn (literally having a ball), I have had lots of time to look and see what’s there (without DOING). I may casually lean over and sweep dirt and pebbles off the rock wall and steps with the side of my hand, or gather up the dessicated catalpa pods, but mostly I am looking. There is evidence of the harsh impositions of this past winter everywhere.

As we trip toward June, the garden truly calls. I will be simplifying out there, as I have been doing everywhere else. There’s no need, for instance, to keep every wild garlic and every naturalized clump of spring flower when they turn the entire line of plantings into a giant mess.

I have a little landscaping job two blocks away that will keep me busy for a few days as well. The question presented was — why are plants dying with such regularity?  I thought we might need to test the soil or limb some of the shade-giving maples. Turns out, the soil (EVERYWHERE) is densely packed with a fine mesh of nearly impenetrable roots — so much so that an azalea planted last year had what looked like pot-bound roots. Needless to say, it did not thrive.

“What happens when our need for nourishment is blocked?” is a question I will be with as Danny and I work.  Dig, dig, dig (it’s HARD digging), shake, shake, shake (capturing some of the existing soil), and then: amend. How satisfying to then spade and turn the friable, rich soil!

fade and wonder and authorship

collage light deemallonTry to answer the question ‘what is art’ and find half your audience in a narcoleptic stupor in a heartbeat. But ASKING the question and PLAYING with it in your hands and your lens and your canvas, is a fiery, soulful exercise.

If you make collage using magazine images, you can’t help but feel a little sheepish about matters of originality. When is borrowing theft? And, how important is endurance, anyway? Fade, fade, fade.

I made and framed this collage about thirty years ago. I can’t remember if it’s under archival glass or not (probably not. I was a law student paying for tuition with loans). Does the fact that I covered and cut the images of an artist’s clay masks turn them into ‘my’ work. Probably not, which is likely why I’ve kept this framed piece to myself all these years.

collage light deemallonBut now — look at the light angling across the glass! The light adds its commentary, without my authorship, and changes the stolen images yet again. Does my capture NOW make it more ‘mine’? And if paper is ephemeral, what is light passing over paper — even if captured in a photo?

“Light eats cloth” commented Mo yesterday. Fade, fade, fade.reveled in light passing through clothPart of me shrugs — or even yells a New Mexico YES —  because maybe that is part of the point — this mixing up of signature with indices of time.

I once sent a piece of patchwork to Grace in New Mexico. I had pulled some inner knots tight and didn’t know how to undo them. It seemed a simple thing to ship cloth west. I got energized by the idea of some fabric I had pieced together being touched by her, being blasted by the desert sun and sniffed at by goats.

The exercise gave me this idea of shipping sections of patchwork around the world, and asking others to let the elements ‘do their thing’, then return them to me so that I could piece them together into a more meaningful Global Warming quilt than I’ve made to date. (Still just an idea).

Jude plays at these edges all the time. Think – Magic Feather cloth, which gathered up hand sewn bits from all over the world, stitching a community together in the process (and a masterpiece cloth). Think of her play with light and shadows. A recent post showed one of her spectacular quilts with a shadow of her hand splayed over one side. Is the work the photograph of Jude’s hand casting a shadow on the quilt? Or the brief event of the shadow? Or is it ‘merely’ the cloth afterall, but now with a memory of the shadow?

Enough words. Time for a run to a garden center. It is an absolutely stunning day and I have both boys home!! Happy Mother’s Day to me!!! And Happy Mother’s day to all of you. We all mother something — ourselves, our pets, our ideas, and some of us, children.

Good ole basting

  The “Indigo Moon” house is framed in ivory silk. Top and bottom are flanked with a quilted upholstery weight fabric. So I laid batting in the midsection (pretty much equalizing the layers), picked a pretty floral for the backing, and then, because silk has a tendency to slide around, basted the layers together.  A classic baste – large stitches in contrasting thread, to be removed as I stitch.  It is satisfying to integrate the layers into something coherent.   I don’t know what this house has to say either (referring to yesterday’s post), but this time it doesn’t matter because for whatever reasons, I’m entralled with this layout, these colors, and this jumble of patterns.  Adding backing and batting means sacrificing the stained glass effect, but I’m okay with that.   

Abandoned ‘Gingko House’

IMG_8953Here I was making a tiny little quilt, enjoying the soft feel of the felted sweater base, taking pleasure in tucking a little sliver of black silk behind the black/gold gingko print in the near-center, finding intrigue in the fiery sheer print defining the sky above the roof… (because of course the central shape took on the characteristics of a house).

IMG_8952At some point, the prospect of completing the piece made me feel bored or restless or both. 

Maybe it was that the black house had nothing to say to me.  A mute house of shadows? Or could it have been chock full of old hauntings that I just didn’t want to hear again? 

On the way up to Montreal last week, I left it in a bathroom in St. Albans, Vermont.  It was weirdly satisfying.

It may have been thrown out by the cleaning crew or it could have been grabbed by someone who saw it as an unexpected little find. Or maybe someone took it in a swipe of puzzled acquisition and THEN threw it out. I’ll never know. 

And it doesn’t matter. For me, the treasure was in letting it go. And you know what? I can now start to listen to what that dark house had to say. 


dirt makes me happy

A short list of things that make me happy.

Fabric dyed with indigo; working hands

IMG_9024This view from my son’s new apartment in Montreal
The moon — whenever, wherever, in whatever phase
dirt, chives that come back with vigor, shiny baubles in the garden
homemade granola —  with lots of nuts and sweetened with maple syrupIMG_9056
a path re-established in the garage — signs of progress
de-gunked window tracts and clean sills
these pants, made several years ago
striped rocks

At the end, turn around and begin again

IMG_8792I completed Week Twelve of “The Artist’s Way” this past week. I was terrifically disciplined about the ‘morning pages’ — perhaps missing as few as five over the 12 weeks. Of course, the morning pages have little to do with discipline. They are about flow and self-care and a certain kind of momentum. The pages are a place to rest. They are a tool of containment, but also of expansion.

IMG_8794Showing up day in and day out has a way of generating ideas, identifying problems, and soothing the cranky child. It’s a place to note synchronicity. Cameron says, “The morning pages will teach you to stop judging and just let yourself write” and “morning pages map our own interior.”

IMG_8795I record dreams and make To Do Lists in the margins. Sometimes my three pages are one long complaint, often revving up into a full-bore RANT. Other times, I find myself describing a box of crayons from childhood or a character from “Blood and Indigo”. The pages can be anything at all. IMG_8802Part of the process of “The Artist’s Way” is to uncover or recover passions — little and big — discovered (where else?) — in the morning pages. The exercises can seem hokey, but they have a certain potency regardless. One result for me was to buy a really good bottle cutter. I can’t tell you how long I have wanted one of these!
The other primary tool besides the morning pages are ‘the artist’s dates’ — solo weekly outings meant to ‘open the self to insight, inspiration, guidance.’ They don’t have to be trips to the museum. They can be outings to the hardware store or a walk in the woods. I fell down miserably on these. The winter and the dog really conspired against me, I guess.  I think I only did three, two of which were trips to the Home Goods store.

IMG_9052Because of Cameron’s encouragement (and the wisdom of Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“), I completely cleared off my fridge. Gone are old pictures, the calendar and white board, random magnets, and a shitty, stained list of phone numbers. I stuck only one image on it — the one up top. It’s a soothing, exotic, indigo-filled ad for Hermes. When I look at it, I feel happy.  Isn’t that the point? Of the things we hang up? A little effort in the hutch produced similar benefit — the red tins look so much better now that they are grouped together. I gave away the ones I didn’t like.

More on that later this week. For now, I begin again. At Week One.

Evidence of days gone by

A weekend of clutter clearing turned this up — one stuck to the other, found in the way-back shelving of our bathroom. I can make up a whole story about the boys from it — probably none of it true — but it does speak to a certain kind of effort that happened over a period of many years.  (I don’t think I ever used lollipops as bribes, but who knows?!)
Bathroom shelving is one thing. The garage is another. It’ll take more than a couple of afternoons to clear this up enough just to be a workable storage space again. It’s always been a mess, but after in-law downsizing, it’s REALLY a mess.

Fortunately that work can be alternated with effort out of doors.  I pulled out a lot of English ivy over the weekend… while tossing a dirty, drooly ball for Finn, who seems to possess a bottomless love for playing fetch. The vine below is hydrangea and a real keeper.
IMG_8816Everywhere around the neighborhood, people are making repairs to damage done by this past (unbelievable) winter. If my neighbor’s basement cleaning crew shows up again today, I will need more than the ‘jackpot boy’ I made for Finn to keep him distracted (speaking of days gone by — that fleece was one year’s Christmas pajama bottoms).  Finn has no trouble with humans, but I guess men in hazmat suits don’t look like people to him!