There is no season such delight can bring,
As summer, autumn, winter, and the spring.
~ William Browne ~
first excerpt ~ Summer Solstice: June 21
second missive ~ Autumn Equinox: September 22
third communique ~ Winter Solstice: December 22
fourth dispatch ~ Vernal Equinox: March 21
As you journey through life, choose your destinations well, but do not hurry there. You will arrive soon enough. Wander the back roads and forgotten paths, keeping your destination in your heart like the fixed point of a compass. Seek out new voices, strange sights, and ideas foreign to your own. Such things are riches for the soul. And, if upon arrival, you find that your destination is not exactly as you had dreamed, do not be disappointed. Think of all you would have missed but for the journey there, and know that the true worth of your travels lies not in where you come to be at the journey's end, but who you came to be along the way. ~ Unknown
Journal for Elizabeth, an exquisite sketchbook of intricately painted birds and handwritten text by Santa Fe artist Carol Mothner. I happened to see this journal when I attended a book arts exhibit at the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts a couple of years ago. I was delighted to find this article in Watercolor magazine and to be able to share it. ~ Catherine
Let me first say thank you for thoughtfully receiving my invitation and agreeing to join me on a Four-Season adventure. I am very much looking forward to the community we will create and the art we will make. Marcel Proust once said "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes," and somehow that seems fitting as the nine of us set a course to share our unrivalled perspectives on art and nature.
The ART we make: Have you ever attended an art exhibit where multiple artists entered work centered around a particular notion? Each artist interpreting the idea in his or her own style filtered through a uniquely personal sensibility. That is the working concept for our Nature Study. The plan is for each of us to create four pieces of art, one each season, and then peek our heads out of our respective art making spaces and discuss what it is we've been up to the previous season. You will find a calendar based on the changes in season under Summer, Autumn, Winter and the Spring.
The COMMUNITY we create: One of the great things about collaborating is the opportunity to reach out of the solitude to exchange ideas and share personal mythologies. I thought it would be helpful to get to know one another slowly through visual language, as well as journaling, letter writing, and that sort of thing. In the order of a naturalist working in a remote location. And please do not hesitate e-mail your fellow artists. The one thing I really want to avoid is a chatty group list e-mail because I've seen that be the downfall of too many collaboratives.
In the meantime, I encourage you to e-mail me things to post in our communal space; i.e., a magazine article you may discover, favorite books, photos of your garden, an exhibit or show you've visited or want to visit, links, or anything else that would be of interest. You can also post messages anytime by clicking on the comments button.
A Collective Memoir: In addition to your original artworks and personal writing journal, we will also be creating a collaborative memoir by sharing our seasonal experiences and discussing projects with our co-conspirators in a written format. For example, you may choose to copy excerpts from your journal, write a group letter or send postcards. As long as you continue to participate in the group exchange. Share as much or as little as is comfortable, incorporate photos of your work, your walks, yourself, your family, illustrations, a feather found in your garden, a bundle of twigs, a shell, etc. This material could result in a richly textured manuscript all its own, as there will no doubt be a vast array of items circulating. You may even make these mementos a part of your personal journal. Organizing it artfully will no doubt evolve as another facet of this artistic exercise.
Thought it might be nice to have a place to post our periodic ramblings. Stop by from time to time, pull up a chair, sit a while and catch up. ~ Catherine
THE HEART OF NATURE, by American poet Edwin Gordon Lawrence. Submitted by Elizabeth Shea
There's a soul in the breeze as it goes softly by,
A soul in the tree as it sends forth a sigh,
A soul in the bird as it carols its song,
And a soul throughout Nature the whole day long.
Then list to this soul as it beats out its tune,
The tune which is heard in December and June,
In all the wide places of land and of sea,
Of river and mountain, of sky and of lea.
To those who in sympathy, joy, love and truth
Attune themselves gladly with fervor of youth
With the great soul of Nature pulsating life,
Reverb'rating strength through the channels of strife,
Will be given a pleasure of infinite joy,
A thrill of delight which no pain can destroy.
So go close to Nature in quest of her heart,
Receive at her hands joys that ne'er will depart.
The focus for the newest work in this show is the concept of “home.” I moved “Up North” three years ago and after a twenty-five year residency in Minneapolis, the natural beauty and relative quietude of the woods is such a welcome change in environment. The move has prompted me to think about what the idea or concept of home means to me. Lots of questions have come to mind: What is home? Is it where you live? Is it where your family resides? Is it where your friends are? Is it just where most of your belongings happen to be at a given time? To probe a bit deeper, is one’s “spiritual” home in a place different from the physical structure of home? Pondering these questions, I found myself drawn to various images relating to this theme of home. Chairs, windows, and doors became comfortable compositional and symbolic elements for the work. A friend’s gift of old floor plans also seemed a compelling symbol. My use of avian imagery is a symbol for my family and friends, as well as a reference to another dimension in the concept of home; many birds have homes that can be thousands of miles apart. I feel many of my pieces are also full of “stories”. It is my hope that as you view these works you might find yourself forming your own stories or personal narratives in response to them, or, conjuring memories or your own thoughts about “home”.
The collage medium I work in most often includes many elements. I use my own photographic imagery for the “snapshots” and the backgrounds that appear in some of my work. At times, I alter the photographs with the computer to achieve a particular feeling that I want to convey or to create a certain visual enhancement. I hand cut or tear the collage elements I use and enjoy the process of building up the different layers of a piece with these components into a pleasing, cohesive whole.
The following quote from Rose Gonnella, an artist and author, really captures what I feel about collage:
“Collage is a medium as comfortable with humor, wit and irony as it is with occasional nostalgia, anger, or even tragedy. If you want to know collage you have to take the time to read it. The medium does not reveal itself on the first layer. You’ll have to dig down.”
“Collage is a medium as comfortable with humor, wit and irony as it is with occasional nostalgia, anger, or even tragedy. If you want to know collage you have to take the time to read it. The medium does not reveal itself on the first layer. You’ll have to dig down.”
Greetings everyone! Terry sent me some photos from his recent show in which he explores concepts of HOME. Type Pad does not allow me to caption the photos but they are as follows:
Left one: Keys to Contentment
Middle: The Wax Wings Gift
Right: Ruled by Time
I asked Terry to also send me his artist statement which I posted along with the artwork. This is a wonderful example of why I asked everyone to include written commentary with the shared visuals (when we do our seasonal mailings). I always find the artists's personal perspectives fascinating. And, when writing from the artist's standpoint, I find that sitting down and sharing my personal perspectives allows me to take stock of what I've been doing. ~ Catherine
A delicate paper nest arrived in Peachtree City today, nestled in a paper hand and tucked inside a paper envelope. It contains all the usual found materials that make a nest a nest. Scraps of paper, leaves, twigs, found feathers, flower petals, and three robins-egg-blue speckled eggs. Thank you Linda!
As paper / collage artists, aren't we just a bit like birds . . . collecting bits of flotsam and jetsam that catch our eye and taking them back to our nests?
" We are but birds of passage and must build our nests of what materials we can find." ~ Lady Wilson 1889
I am delighted to be participating in this Nature Study Exchange. I am not one who journals through writing, my primary form of expression is through images. But, I would like to mention the changes that have come with spring this year. Just one month ago there was a heavy snow -- very unusual timing. Now, it is uncommonly warm with flowers popping open overnight and with the squirrels rummaging through my flower pots for last fall's buried nuts. And, the swallows returned last week -- finally! ~ K. Moss
"A delicate fabric of bird song floats in the air. The smell of wet wild earth is everywhere." ~ Sara Teasdale
School was out here in Peachtree City a couple of weeks ago. We're enjoying a little less structure to our days. It has been HOT but so far the garden hasn't suffered too much and the tomatoes are happy!
Thought this might be a place to check in and share stories about our summer days. I've already enjoyed some great summer reads and thought I'd share those titles. The Highest Tide was just wonderful. Picked it up for a recent weekend jaunt to the shore. Couldn't put it down. Also read The Tree-Sitter and, again, stayed up until the wee hours turning the pages.
I'm off to San Antonio in July . . . can you think of a hotter time to visit? Then it's off to Sanibel Island.
Hope you've got some lazy summer days ahead! ~ Catherine
Summer Solstice Missive " . . . Each of your small packages contains some poppies, in various forms, and a sand dollar collected at Stinson Beach yesterday morning. In a few days you will each receive a larger box with beach detritus that I have been collecting for each of you since the spring. The items in this box will be quite random and I will elaborate more in the note I enclose in that box.
". . . The beauty that I find in the pieces that I choose to pick up have to do with the patina they have achieved. Their surface quality is such that time and the elements have left their mark.
My hope is that you find the beauty in the enclosed detritus. That these humble elements may transcend their previous incarnations in the hands of such a creative group." ~ Anne
I'm finding it difficult posting a note about my own little home grown offering, so instead I will offer some history about the ledger paper used in my missive. I have had this ancient ledger for some time. It dates to 1839, making it 167 years old. It must have spent a lot of time in an attic because it is brittle. Most of the pages in the ledger were recycled by a minister's wife in Putnam (New England) in the 1880s, for use as a scrapbook. It is full of pasted-in news clippings, a few scraps and hand-rendered drawings. There are some really wonderful articles, poems, and stories in the clippings so I will try to make a point of including a layer of that in my next communique.
I just put my piece to you in the mail- yes- I am going to try to do this exchange after all- I realized that this is a very healthy thing for me to do- I would suggest you use a letter opener to open up the piece- you will see why when it comes. What I have loved about the mailing from you all is the different ways you all have interpreted this exchange- it's fun and such a nice change from the usual shared journal- or artists' cards or altered books. Thank you Catherine for including me in this endeavor!
Working on this piece has really helped me get back into my studio and to really begin to heal from the horrible experience this spring at the university. I was able to combine things that I don't think to combine-that's pictures of my collages that are my main form of expression and the fun of rubberstamping. Like Catherine mentioned on her page in the Art Doll Chronicle's book, I think there can be a real issue for some with the age old art and craft debate. When something is made from the heart and is personally authentic to the maker then that is the best one can do! Don't you all wish we could all meet at a coffee shop and talk? Or meet somewhere for a day of art play?
Summer Memories Inspired by collecting seashells on the beach with mother, who then magically created beautiful mirrors and little creatures with them. I plan to have a "fairy" for every season, created using an image from nature that means most to me for that season,
and have them framed together.
~ Hope Wallace, for the Nature Study 2006 ~
" . . . My collage work tends to include a lot of birds and they are powerful symbols for things like freedom, escape, home and some are symbols for actual friends.
I use my own photographic work whenever possible. The cover of this piece is from the series that I sent as a postcard to you all. I lay stuff right on the scanner bed somtimes . . . I find it comforting to have these things in our living environment."
A delightful packet of Sweet Pea seeds, and Views from an Artist's Sketchbook arrived during my summer sojourns. Jocelyn wrote "The first enclosed page, done on June 21, will always remind me of that first day spent in the northwest of The Netherlands . . ." Even if only vicarioulsy, I feel as though I were a travelling companion on the board barge with Jocelyn.
Robert Louis Stevenson
NATURE STUDY FIELD JOURNAL: Summer
June 22 – September 22, 2006
This season I am writing from base camp on the tropical island of Sanibel. I arose early this morning so that mine might be the first set of footprints dotting the shore following high tide. This is but one of my shelling methodologies, which I choose depends a lot on what I’d like to find in my shell case at the end of the day. In A Gift From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh shared her thoughts on shelling: “. . . one must never dig. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy or too impatient. To dig shows lack of faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.” This morning’s treasure hunt brought lightening welks and atlantic giant cockles gathered as they tumbled in the receding surf.
I have been shelling on this particular stretch of beach for all of my adult life. Back when we lived in South Florida, it was just a two-hour jaunt through the Everglades. Now, it is nearly two day’s ride or a 1 ½ hour flight from Atlanta Hartsfield airport. This summer we chose the latter and immersed ourselves in the warm tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico for all of eight days. No matter how many days we spend on the island, it never seems quite enough.
Today I met an ancient collector on the beach. She was clad in slacks, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks, and juggled her shell bag and an umbrella. She was on the beach from very early in the morning until sundown. We weathered several showers in close proximity. She stood in the surf most of the day, steadfast and focused on the hunt. Eventually I found a baby horse conch, one of the rarer shell finds during the summer months, and offered it to her. It brought a smile to her face, but she seemed self conscious during our chat standing there fully clothed in ankle-deep water. She explained that her blood pressure medication causes her to be ultra sensitive to sunlight, and she “wasn’t going to Sanibel without shelling!” I completely understood. It seemed a small concession to be there on that perfect day sifting through the shells for hours on end, while contemplating the universe.
Sanibel is a magical place with more than half its land, 5000 acres, a dedicated nature preserve. And its gulf- rimmed beaches rank among the top shelling locales in the northern and western hemispheres. Unlike other barrier islands, Sanibel is positioned east and west of the mainland allowing for bountiful shell deposits. I have always felt a spiritual connection to the island, possibly because I was raised on old Florida’s sun-drenched shores and spent all my time in and around water, until I ultimately married my husband in a park on the bay in the midst of a torrential downpour.
Sanibel is still the Florida of my youth, vintage Florida. And its natives have done everything possible to keep it undeveloped and chaste. This year we returned to find Sanibel, sans its lush vegetation and struggling to recover from the effects of a red tide. We arrived July 21, almost two years post Hurricane Charley and were eager to reconnect. Fortunately, while Charley was a fast-moving hurricane packing winds it was not pushing much water. We were relieved to see that two years out, the most notable change was storm ravaged vegetation and the loss of its lush tree canopy. As always, it was reassuring to find things relatively unchanged. Even our favorite beach seemed unaffected; at least until we learned that a mere 24 hours earlier, they had been suffering the brunt of a red tide.
In another life, my coastal life of 39 years, killer storms were few and far between, and red tides nonexistent. Red tides were something that happened somewhere else. But just one day earlier, Goliath groupers weighing hundreds of pounds had been rotting in the sand rendering the beaches inaccessible. The local newspaper filled in some blanks for us, explaining that a “red tide is a natural phenomenon caused by a population explosion, or bloom, of the single-celled alga K. brevis which produces a powerful neurotoxin. During a bloom, the toxin renders shellfish poisonous, can kill fish, marine mammals, sea turtles and marine birds, and can cause respiratory irritation in humans.” Scientists attribute the “population explosion” to run-off of pollutants. Never have we been more aware that our planet is in trouble.
Though the rotting fish had been removed, the telltale signs that all was not well remained. It was what we didn’t see and hear that was eerily unsettling, such as the constant chatter of marine bird life and schools of dolphins feasting offshore. What was visible was another first for us. On two separate days, we discovered the remains of ancient Loggerhead sea turtles, fallen victims of the red tide, laying splayed in the sand at the water’s edge. July had always been our favorite time to visit the island, largely because it coincides with the nightly arrival of mother Loggerhead sea turtles making landfall to deposit their caches of eggs. We had never previously found more than tracks in the sand. After a couple of days we finally felt the island relax and the abundant bird life and dolphins returned, along with the morning turtle patrol flagging new nests that will give rise to hundreds of baby sea turtles in just a couple of months.
When we weren’t on the beach, we kayaked through the black mangrove estuaries of Ding Darling nature preserve observing anhinga and scarlet ibis along our route. We visited the Baily-Matthews Shell Museum and studied local specimens and those from around the world. In your boxes you will find a seed from a black mangrove tree. The old time islanders have been known to ride out storms in the mangrove estuaries, believing them to be the safest place during storms because of their great strength. Without mangroves eventually the island would succumb to the tides. While it is illegal to pick one of these seeds from a tree, you may collect them from the flotsam and jetsam of the tidal wash. If your seed floats, it is still viable and may be planted.
One of the things we particularly enjoy about Sanibel, are the afternoon storms as they come rolling in from the ocean, thunderous and dark, but at the same time cool and breezy, insisting on a respite from the sun and sand. (You can find some storm pics posted at http://naturestudy.typepad.com/sanibel_island/ ) And, of course something we don’t see much in the heavily forested Georgia terrain, the colors of a sunset drifting beneath the horizon as day becomes night.
As summer turns to fall, I bid you all a fond farewell until next season.
“ . . . Think of all you would have missed but for the journey there, and know that the true worth of your travels lies not in where you come to be at journey’s end, but in who you come to be along the way.” ~ Unknown
As Hummingbirds frantically prepare for their long journey, Terry's missive arrives in Peachtree City with soulful poetic quotes and photographs to celebrate the season in miniature format.
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." ~ Albert Camus
"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all." ~ Stanley Horowitz
September 23, 2006: It is official, today is the first day of fall, my son's 19th birthday and Rosh Hashanah.
Attached are pictures I took today of local signs of the changing season for you to post to the Nature Study Site. Autumn for us in the Bay Area is very subtle. The only indigenous foliage to turn colors is the ubiquitous poison oak. It signals a fiery orange red as the season changes and warns it's victims to stay away or venture close at your own risk. Another sign is the ripening of the Coast Live Oak acorns. They are in abundance this year and will be the central theme to my autumnal offering. On my hike today I
gathered the last of the foliage I will need. It will go out in the mail next week.
This time of year is actually our best weather. Clear skies, no fog, warm days and cool nights. Usually lasts until the end of October.
In closing, I want to say how therapeutic this group has become for me. August and September have been the most dramatic and traumatic couple of months I can remember. All the creative juices I could muster have had to go into keeping my bread and butter work alive, (see the Gift Design section of my website). I will expound more in my mailing. Just know that creating my fall offering has brought me hope at a time when life and all it's mysteries have seemed at times too heavy and dark to bear.
p.s. I have kept yours and Terry's offerings unopened on purpose. I am home alone tomorrow and plan to have a very leisurely morning. The highlight of which will be opening your packages!!
The window light had provided a beacon & from the dark forest she came for that reason.
She stayed at my window all the next day & when darkness descended she fluttered away.
I feel as if I have been given a gift and communed with nature just a wee bit.
Each night I wonder if she'll return to me, but I know in my heart that it's not to be.
I think this visit was Nature's sign to celebrate its wonder and make it mine.
~ Elizabeth Shea 2006
Lisa's summer missive arrived in Peacthree City today painting visceral imagery, both literally and metaphorically, of her summer hours biking and gardening in the Wisconsin countryside; accompanied by one of her exquisite soldered relics. This one contains the essence of some of her garden flowers and a milkweed seed, attached to driftwood from the lakeshore. In her summer offering she included stories and samples of seeds from the garden and those shed by the trees.
Dear Nature Group,
Although the enclosed shadowbox was completed three weeks ago, it has taken me this time to pull together the thoughts I want to share in this autumnal missive. The past few months have been so tumultuous, dramatic and traumatic. The picture below was taken on July 26th by my husband at Huntington Lake located in the Central Sierras of California at 7000 feet. It has become a metaphor for my life this year.
My family and I have suffered the loss of 5 people this year, watched a dear friend battle lymphoma, (she is winning this battle!!), and said good-bye to our darling puppy Izzie, because of incompatibility with the Queen of our home, our 12-year-old cattledog, Ollie. Not to mention the return home of my son unexpectedly earlier this summer. As I reflect back on a year ago at this time I don't recall ever being so proud of his achievements. He was an entering freshman at Ohio State University, (his choice of schools because of a sports management program). He worked so hard to get in and was awarded grant money besides. He is now taking a year off and reassessing everything.
Of the five people we said good-by to this year, the most tragic was the loss of my beloved brother-in-law, Jim. He died abruptly during our annual family vacation in the cabin built by my husband's grandfather in 1922 at the above mentioned lake. Jim had just returned from a four day hike into the back country of the John Muir Wilderness with his son, Andrew. The only solace I can gather from his abrupt passing is that he died at his happiest in the place he loved the most.
As I grappled with finding my creative spark after the tragic death of my brother-in-law, the hikes I take almost daily into the hills surrounding my home once again proved to be the best medicine. About a week before the Autumn equinox, I started to notice the abundance of acorns in the Coast Live Oaks. They gave me a ray of hope as I recalled a project I was involved in three years ago. Our local oaks had become victims of a disease called Phytophthora ramorum or in layman's terms, Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. Marin Releaf worked in conjunction with a project sponsored by the University of California to monitor and harvest acorns from healthy trees locally for planting in a devasted area of China Camp State Park. This park froms the northwest border of my neighborhood. As a volunteer for this organization, I became a monitor of 6 healthy trees. We harvested acorns in late September and planted them later that fall. Of the 100 sites we planted, 70 of them have young healthy oaks growing.
Thus, the acorns became the focal point for your shadowbox. I took their symbology for renewal and growth to heart and found inspiration in them and the gathering of other natural elements that remind me of Jim. Each of your boxes is slightly different but commonly contain the following: acorns (for the above mentioned reasons); clematis seed pods (they are the fuzzy looking clumps) gathered these in Seattle when visiting my sister-in-law, Sally, Jim's wife; eucalyptus seed (the round dark seed) chosen for the star shape in it's middle; and pine lichen (the chartruese filaments) chosen because it is a family favorite growing on the Ponderosa Pines at our mountain cabin. Branches falling from these trees covered in this and became the base for the nature still lives we create as table and mantle decorations during our three week mountain stay.
In closing for this season, I can't tell you all how much it has meant to me to be part of this group. Your stunning and heartfelt creations live beside me in my studio. I am reminded of each of you daily. Thank you.
Dear Nature Study friends,
My autumn travels are over, and at last I have been able to spend time in my studio. Throughout my explorations, I've been accumulating images of inspiring natural phenomena that I've been eager to share with you all. By now, there's probably too much to share for one season's communique! My solution was to make a portfolio to send to you, and fill it with an assortment of things.
As I've received your beautiful communiques, I've felt close to you while admiring all the elements so carefully put together. Learning of both the difficult events in your lives, and the sublime ones, makes your work even more meaningful. Thank you. When I get together with friends here at home, I often take some of your creations with me to share with them. These artful objects never fail to elicit keen interest and awe.
I tresure our camaraderie! May the coming months hold healing, joy, and time to take journeys inward. Winter is a good time to do that.
Your fellow lover of nature,
Here in the midwest, autumn's peak is long over and the leaves that skitter across my property make a brittle sound having left their branches weeks ago. Things indoors are a bit more colorful and festive though as the pumpkins, Indian corn, and gourds I bought in early October are still holding up and should make it thru Thanksgiving week . . . well, the gourds and the Indian corn at least. I also bought a few pots of "icicle" pansies weeks ago and have them on my front porch. They are hearty little souls despite the frosty nights and I love to pinch off a few blooms to keep in a tiny vintage bud vase on my kitchen window sill over the sink. Makes washing dishes a much more pleasant experience.
I am sending you each a "santo," which is Spanish for saint. These figures, some carved from wood and some plaster, have always fascinated me. This one is fashioned from paper (of course!) and I am christening her "Our Lady of the Falling Leaves." I have seen photos of ancient santos with their faces literally crumbling off, yet they always seem to radiate a slient grace and benevolence that remains despite the toll of time. This santo is offering you a wee bouquet of dried grasses and a few tiny branch tips, I got a close up look at the small buds along their length. Here was next spring sleeping peacefully within. I feel so fortunate to be part of this lovely group. I hope this little santo brings blessings to you this season and for all those to com. ~ Linda
I hope you enjoy this little musical offering. It is a collection of some of my favorite less traditional Christmas and snow related songs. It is a mellow collection for the most part. The CD opens with a calling of angels and two Celtic offerings and then continues into some jazz, some folk, and a few oldies as you slowly wind down on a quiet winter evening.
There is no season such delight can bring,
As summer, autumn, winter, and the spring.
~ William Browne ~
first excerpt ~ Summer Solstice: June 21, 2006
second missive ~ Autumn Equinox: September 22, 2006
third communique ~ Winter Solstice: January 22, 2007
fourth dispatch ~ Vernal Equinox: March 21, 2007
(Thought it might be helpful to re-post our schedule, particularly since the winter missive is now scheduled for January 2007)
Today, as I brought out the pizzelle iron and baked up a few batches of a favorite anise cookie while listening to Lisa's wonderful musical offering, I was again reminded of all of you and how much I have enjoyed getting to know you, and I am very much looking forward to our remaining time together. Thank you for your friendhship and for making this a truly special collaborative.
My son Adam is due to arrive back home in Atlanta in just a couple hours and the weather man is hinting that we may have snow on Tuesday! Odd, considering we have been driving around for the last two weeks with the top down and enjoying late fall / early winter weather more customary for South Florida than Atlanta. I know that some of you are up to your window ledges in snow and have even been without power over the last two weeks, so I am sending you warm greetings and best wishes for a spectacular new year!
Dear Nature Group and Friends,
A bit of quiet time at last. My design deadlines have been met, the last of my jewelry commissions have been delivered and thanks to the internet my shopping has been done.
What an incredible pleasure it has been this year to meet this group through cyberspace and more concretely to get to know each of you with your amazing art offerings and written words. I am truly astounded and honored to be connected with each of you.
My apologies for being neglectful in adding comments to our blog. Since I have been spending 8 or more hours a day on the computer designing, I have not felt inclined to spend a minute more on it even though the guilt at not staying in touch is starting to become palpable!
Here is wishing each of you a sweet holiday season and the best for you and your loved ones in the new year!
The thin skinned queen of lemons! The rind is not bitter. When truly ripe the skin should be a deep cadmium yellow and the fruit inside a mellow blend of lemon and orange flavors.
California Bay Laurel (umbellularia california)
Much more aromatic than the more common bay leaf. Use VERY sparingly. One quarter of a leaf goes a long way!
". . . As we left the house, all these lovely large yellow leaves descended upon us. I thought they looked like canvases drifting from the sky. I thought of you . . . The one other fall event that I cherish is when the birds swarm (that is probably not the correct word for birds, but seems to convey what they are like). When the winds get cold and strong in the fall, we have days when birds of all sorts descend upon my woods behind the house. I suppose they are migrating on their way to warmer climates. They are very noisy and cover the trees. They stay usually less than an hour and disappear. One particular day, the robins blew in and off again. The included pictures of the trees and birds are from this week. The birds had arrived again. I think this warm and cold weather does confuse them about where they should be. I took these pictures from my studio inside the window glass. I tried stepping outside on the deck, but the birds of course, did not stay close then. I was happy with the pictures, as they do convey the stark beauty of the bare trees against the sky. I believe I need to make some artwork with these pictures. What do you think?
The snowflakes are similar to some that I made for Christmas.
I hope that you had a wonderful Holiday Season and that your 2007 will bring good health and happiness to you and your loved ones. ~ Elizabeth
"Greetings, I wanted to portray my frustration with this particular winter here in central Wisconsin. It has been a roller coaster. Bleak and cold and snowy one day, melted and sunny and unusually warm another day, and then back again. I had expectations in my creative brain that I would take photos of the various animal tracks in the snow and use those in my art offering. But, seeing there had been very little snow until this past week, I filed that idea for another time and began my mini quilt instead. The little poem attached to the piece reflects the "nature of nature" for me this winter -- changed every moment but ever the same. You can always count on that here in the northland!"
". . . I find that as I gently age, I both curse and embrace the winter, as I try to outrun occasional seasonal blues. When the birds show up at the feeders I feel blessed. When the sunrise takes my breath away, I feel humbled. But I do miss my bike, my flowers and bare feet. Each day I step one more step towards spring. My personal mantra after December 21st is "We are headed toward the light."
May this winter find you all healthy, cozy and happy." ~ Lisa
The inspiration for the shadowbox came to me, once again, on one of my hikes. It was late November and I was reflecting on both the natural and political climate change we were experiencing. My hikes start very early in the morning because of my husband's work schedule and the opportunity for a ride to the western side of the hill I hike up and over. I literally go from the dark into the rising sun as I crest the western face of the hill and look towards the East Bay (Berkley and Oakland).
On that particular morning, I noticed the layers of the earth the trail cuts through. I could see the roots of trees and their canopies at the same time. Seeing this, got me thinking about Winter and what a phenomenal season it is. How seeds lay dormant, waiting for the right combination of warmth and light. How the extremes of weather take their toll and enlighten us to those things that are ultimately the most important, food, shelter and good health.
The creation of those boxes happened in phases. I somehow wanted to incorporate the ying and yang of the season as we passed the Winter Solstice and daylight grew and embrace the metaphor that a more peaceful existence will come to our fragile planet. The boxes themselves were the real impetus for what finally came to fruition. They are actually drawers from a handmade small chest that was given to me by a dear friend a couple of years ago. The chest of drawers as a whole was not usable because the whole thing had become so warped but I couldn't let the beauty of it go to waste. I went back through the photos I had taken that morning in November and the blood red surface of the Madrone tree (left) and the way in which it grew spoke to me. Although I ended up not using the photo with its natural palette, the whole concept came together for me because of that tree. It is so vasular looking and symbolizes our lifeblood connection to nature.
The photo on the right shows the roots of an oak tree. The picture was taken at eyelevel from the trail. The earth is giving way as the hillside crumbles but that oak is hanging on for dear life. Yet another visual metaphor for what lies ahead for us and our precious Earth.
I chose this Thomas Moore quote to set the tone for my Fall missive. Try as I might, however, I am incapable of living up to this philosophy. It has been a busy four months, and why I am only just writing my Fall missive mid-winter. My Fall reflections include a realxed afternoon at The Cottin' Pickin Fair, and several beautiful days spent outdoors in my garden, breezes delivering a shower of leaves while my husband Dale and I planted our Spring bulbs.
I wish that I had another exotic port of call to report from, but Fall is typically the time of year dedicated to design work. I am in the process of converting my catalog over to clear stamps. There are many reasons why I chose to make this change, but at the top of my list is that no trees will be lost in the process. Consequently, most of what I have done artistically over the last several months was relative to this project. Instead of a seasonal postcard, I thought I would share something from my newest stamp collection.
In my Fall missive, I continued my series of naturalist collection boxes, and last weekend spent the day in my studio painting tree vignettes while "drafting" my letter to you all. I also took Lisa and Anne's artwork outdoors to photograph for our nature study site. Their thoughts on light and color, mirror my own. It has been something I have meditated on a great deal lately while reading Elizabeth Graver's book Awake, a story bout a chlid with a rare genetic disease XP (xeroderma pigmentosum) which causes hypersensitivity to ultraviolet light. The families of XP children live year-round in virtual darkness. Can you imagine a life without the light and warmth of the sun? What a cruel trick of nature. The story was skillfullyl narrated, with all the emotional undercurrents. I think I developed SAD (seasonal affective disorder) while reading it.
At the onset of that painting session last weekend, I was not sure which color would best represent Fall. I had chosen blue for Spring. Blue representing water, the color of life, and Spring is the season of rebirth. Linda and I had exchanged e-mails concerning my pink Summer missive. Florida and Summer are the same in my mind, and Florida is the pink state; pink houses, pink flamingos, pink hibiscus, shell pink, pink sunsets. I could not settle on one color for Fall. Fall begins green, transitions to reds and yellows, and ends in browns. I started with green, over stamped with a black tree silhouette, but soon found myself incorporating vermillion leaves and acorns. This felt too bright for Fall, so I sanded some of that off and added a wash of burnt umber, and finally it felt like Fall. It wasn't until after the fact that I realized I had instinctively mimicked the natural cycle.
Wishing you all a year filled with the magic of the seasons, all four of them!
". . . I have come to really love winter on many levels -- the beauty for sure. But that idea of nature slowing down is so appealing. When we start to lose light I hate it but then I start to love the coccoon feeling. I get somewhat introspective -- I think about my goals -- what the past year brought us both good and bad. I also ponder my dreams a bit for the future." ~ Terry
Winter in the Pacific Northwest is normally a fairly quiet time. The muted landscapes and steel gray water are punctuated by the deep hues of evergreens stitched together by the stark branches of maple and other trees. The occasional arctic front that sweeps down from Alaska might bring snow once or twice, and it is only then that we are likely to see the cerulean blue of the clear winter sky. The winters can become tediously long due to this notorious lack of sunlight. Looking at the seed and garden gear cataloges can help us through the somber weeks of January and February. No doubt some of you do the same. I've enclosed a recently-written poem inspired by this very activity, but the actual event I wrote about took place many years ago. In searching for something to create for you, I chose to do illustrations for this poem, and then put everything together in a single signature booklet.
My hope was to create the document using my new software and hardware. I did this, and learned a great deal. However, I wasn't happy with the quality of the printed output; evidently, my new printer is not up to snuff, or I have more settings to explore. So, I recreated the final document on my old PC after all. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut says!
Gardeners in my neighborhood encounter tough webs of cedar roots and a minefield of glacial stones in the soil. You'll read a little about these in the poem. I walked to the beach the other day, and there I found a tangle of sea-scrubbed cedar roots tossed ashore during a squall. I brought them back home with me, all the while pondering what I could make for you using them. While it is not a fine writing instrument, the cedar root pen I've enclosed actually will write! I lettered your names with the one I cut for myself. The fibrous quality of the wood makes an ardent tool, allowing one to draw with the corners of the nib in addition to writing with the broad edge of the tip.
Following the suit of LInda's and Catherine's inclusions of sweet treats with their missives, I was inspired to bake something for you. Thus, I've made cookies in the form of roots, using Washington state hazel nuts. Perhaps having a cup of coffee or tea with the cookies, while you read my rather melodramtic poem, would give you a respite from the winter weather that might be obscuring the sun's warmth and rays where you live, too! I hope so.
Winter comes, and the running sap slows.
For my father, this winter season was his last. I deeply appreciate the compassionate and kind notes and letters you have written to me following Dad's death. He played many roles in my life, from my devoted parent, to my role model as citizen of the world. He loved art, architecture, and traveling. The only excursion he regretted never taking was an African safari! I may have to do that in his stead some day.
As I write, there are fierce winter storms occurring where some of you live. I hope you and your partners and your kin can all stay warm, on-task, and that the dreams of spring approaching will help sustain you.
"And Winter slumbering in the open air wears on her smiling face a dream of Spring . . "
One of my favorite childhood memories is the day I "saw" snowflakes for the first time. I was probably 5 or 6 years old and playing in one of Chicago's snowfalls wearing my beloved red wool coat with the gray plush collar. This was one of those times when the snow drifts down in frothy tufts and I happened to glance at my sleeve. Looking much closer, I realized that there, delicately perched on the woolen fibers, were the tiniest, most impossibly intricate snowflakes! I could see each one's crystalline patterns and six pointed shapes. Up until then, snow was to me, a mass of fun fluffy stuff, but I never realized that it was actually made up of these exquisite frozen jewels or that those shapes we cut out of folded tissue paper really existed.
Since then, I have loved snowflakes. They are a favorite motif in my Christmas decorations along with frost and icicles. I have read widely about "Snowflake" Bentley, the amazing man who painstakingly took thousands of pictures of snowflakes beginning in 1885 and discovered that no two are alike. I highly recommend the reissue of his 1931 book, Snow Crystals, available at Snowflakebentley.com.
My winter offering features another fascination of mine, the moon. I love the names the Native Americans gave to the moons of each month and understandably, February, is the Snow Moon. Another less romantic name for this month's moon is the Hunger Moon owing to the scarcity of food at this time of year. Inside your moon pocket are 2 postcards from a wonderful Ansel Adams exhibition I saw over the holidays and a tag once again inspired by one of Catherine's beautiful women, Mother Bird. The actual image holds a nest, but I took artistic license and gave her a snow globe containing another one of Catherine's dreamy maidens. I once heard mica referred to as "cracked ice" so I thought it was a fitting cover for this season's tag.
My other piece is a continuation of my Santo theme, but this time she is gazing from a tiny winter shrine. I attempted to make this stamped image look like carved wood by using distress embossing powder and painting it with a watercolor of instant coffee. She is wearing a wreath of faux branches, but real preserved evergreens and has a halo of silver and frost, the Snow Moon. I wanted the shrine to have a weathered, shabby look as this Santo and her home live outdoors in the woods, perhaps gently hung on a tree.
On the back of the shrine is a little quote I came across in an old datebook. It seemed perfect, so like our Lisa, my Santo is also longing for Spring . . . hence the tag with the egg (from Catherine's amazing new collection).
My husband and I are in the food business, so I seem to have a need to send edible goodies every once and a while! This time, I couldn't resist some Valentine treats, including chocolate, of course. I found the coasters at Anthropologie and immediately thought of our group with their bird and hare graphic, but what good are coasters without something tasty to put on them, so included are packs of spiced apple cider mix, one for you and the other for a loved one. Happy Valentine's Day!
The winter mailings I have received have been nothing short of astounding and are gracing several rooms here. I am so grateful to have these beautiful reminders of your varied talents and your generous friendship. With so much indoor time right now, we need to be surrounded by such treasures. They are looked at, touched, and admired many times a day and have truly made my house a very personal seasonal home. Thank you all!!
Your Santo and her shrine not only dream of Spring, she celebrates the winter and its gifts, cold and brittle may they be. But most importantly, she offers each and every one of you the warmth of her blessing for a joyful and toasty rest-of-the-winter.