Saturday, October 31, 2009
The month has certainly flown by, and even the time change tonight signals winter is just around the corner. The rains this week have landed more leaves on the ground than I can see on many of the trees, and the incredible architecture of each shrub and tree is becoming more evident.
Tonight children all over, including my grands will go knocking on neighbor's doors 'Trick or Treating' for the candy and treats they love. Parties and fall and harvest festivals are so much a part of this season. Some of the houses have been decorated for the celebration - everything from pumpkins to ghosts to haunted houses - traditions set with a nod to an 'other world existence' .... a spirit-filled place that on this day blends into one.
While I can't say that this is true, what I do know is that the spirit of kindness in the nurses, doctors, family, friends and you have certainly surrounded my family and our household. Mike is on liquids now, and mending well. Your spirited words, thoughts and prayers have buoyed us through this frightening time, and I hope you know the depth of my gratitude and the spirit of my appreciation.
As we light our Jack-o-Lanterns and hand out treats, may you know the blessings you have shared with us, and the light of our thankfulness.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The days and nights are blending into a seamless surrealism. I'm in a single-focus tunnel, but there is light at the end of it. Mike was placed in his own room last night, still on the IV, and with a reduction of pain meds. He's not as chipper as he was when he was totally pain free, and the soreness of the past week's events and surgery are being felt. He was able to get up and move arouund, walk the halls and such, but no fluids until today. He's lost some weight, and with the return of pain, he'll have less rest. I understand the two days following surgery can be the most uncomfortable, so I'm hoping the worst will be over by tonight. Still, being in his own room allows more company- for Mike a salve and distraction.
I picked up some 'litter' from the grounds and a few nuts from home - a leaf, hickory nut, pecan, chestnuts. Their earthiness and bright leaf colors grounding me as I painted them. Mike's girlfriend and I will alternate stays so both of us will be able to get a few chores run and a bit more rest.
Thank you for your encouragement, prayers and words of wisdom. I"m taking a preventative daily dose of Airborne, and relaxing with paint and views of your work and words -- all exceedingly helpful and encouraging. Bless you and thank you.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
It's hard to see the colors of my landscape this week since I often leave the house in the dark and return late at night. The other morning as I moved my car from the garage, the headlights highlighted one of the early blooming spring shrubs (the name escapes me this early in the morning! LOL) and so I got out of the car and snapped off a few twigs to sketch at the hospital.
Sketching in an ICU unit, in a small chair, with instruments surrounding my son, noises and nurses all around, is a juggling act with moments of hilarity as one tries to stay out of the way, be somewhat 'inconspicuous' and stay a bit focused on patient, paint and placement all at the same time! I will look back at this series of leaves and stems and bits of nature not only to remember the season and this challenging time, but also how truly blessed it is to be able to paint on an art table with space, light and a comfy seat! LOL Nonetheless, Iand most of all, am truly grateful that the nurses have been exceedingly tolerant.
Again my deepest thanks for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. The pain meds are working to keep Mike comfortable, and he was able to get out of the bed, walk a bit and sit up for an hour or two yesterday. We're expecting him to be in his own room later today and that he will begin taking fluids. Depending on his progress, he should be coming home sometime this weekend. We'll be getting a room ready for him as well as any special foods he'll need. He'll have 4-8 weeks of recovery, and then surgery again. This is going to be a long road, but things are progressing, and looking far brighter than they did a week ago.
Again my heartfelt gratitude, and I should get a chance to see your beautiful artwork and comment shortly. Your works inspire and cheer me, and I'm missing my daily viewing. Thank you too for your patience and most incredible kindness.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Mike's surgery went well, and I cannot thank you sufficiently for all your thoughts and prayers - I know these have carried him through. When I left him in the ICU unit last night, he was heavily sedated, and yet still experiencing severe pain. The road to recovery is going to be long and arduous and painful ... but if he can get through the next few days, we think the worst will be behind him. Again, my heart-felt, humble gratitude.
The recent rains and winds have removed so many of the leaves off the trees. These hickory leaves came from my backyard - the tree I can watch from my upstairs window. All week, it has been brilliantly golden against the dark green pines. I picked up a few leaves before leaving the house to paint during all the long waiting periods. I suppose if there is another case for watercolor, it's its portability. I can sit in a stiff chair with pad and brush in my lap and lose myself --the process meditative and prayerful. It has helped.
As have you ....
Blessings and gratitude, and biggest of hugs. Thank you.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The week has a surreal feel to it as the days pass with no firm decision about surgery. Hour by hour we sit awaiting a doctor's visit. We've received conflicting reports from the internist and the surgeon, and hopefully we're get to the heart of the matter today. We are all weary and concerned. And I thank you sincerely your continued thoughts and prayers.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The cold weather we've been having, the recent rains, and the planet's turning have all contributed to the incredible fall display I see. I am bedazzled with the range of colors, the varieties within one single leaf, the array of different barks against a kaleidoscope of colors! In my forrays to the hospital and back to home, leaves swirl around my moving car, crunch under foot, pile in windrows. Rainy days bring out their hues even more vividly - but when the sun peeks from behind clouds, the colors set against a Carolina blue sky are enough to make one catch a breath!
These maple leaves were in the hospital parking lot. I love their wine-color - reminding me of a glass of burgundy. The curled edges, paler against the front, were such a nice contrast to paint and draw.
Painting has been such a good stress reliever for me. Sitting in Mike's room with pencil or brush in hand, the room windowless and dark, listening to the sound of the IV pump and his breathing, brings on a quietness to the mind, a quieting of worry, a softness to the tension. Oftentimes, Mike will sleep while I sit there, gaining the rest his body needs for healing. Meantime, pictures form on pages, and time passes in a way that makes me lose track of the hours and the days.
Today, another CT scan and visit by the surgeon. More decisions, more tests. So far, he's holding his own and improving. Thank you, truly and wholeheartedly, for your thoughts and prayers.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
For the celebration of our year, this incredible image was offered (http://www.flickr.com/photos/33068808@N06/3927610615/). The interpretations have ben stunning! And I wouldn't have missed an opportunity to add my own congratulations to the group with my attempt.
THANK YOU, Gerry and Bill, for helping us all to grow in friendship and ability! Here's to year 2!!!
Medical Update: Fortunately, we live only a short distance from our local hospital, so I can come home throughout the day to do some needed chores, relax with a bit of painting, nap. Thusfar, Mike is holding his own. They had brought in an operating team yesterday, ready for surgery. But the surgeon noted that Mike's infection has been responding positively to the antibiotics and the tenderness has decreased. Though there is risk involved and he is being monitored closely, they are opting to wait until Monday to drain the abscess, and then evaluate when the surgery will occur. Mike is on high doses of antibiotics and pain meds, and hasn't eaten or had anything to drink since Tuesday. He's in a great deal of discomfort, but his decision to have a single surgery rather than two, though chancey and dangerous, was thought a fair decision by the surgeon, and one, the doctor told us, he would have made himself. I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and thoughts.
Mom is doing better, and my sisters and I are planning to see her shortly.
My deepest gratitude -- truly.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
As I sat in my office yesterday morning, I watched the sun rise in the east - the colors a soft glow of red and yellow - and a swirly, foggy mist settled low among the trees. Our gardener joined me at that early hour to watch the day break..... and we chatted about the dedication we've been preparing for all month.
The sky's early glow portended an incredibly beautiful day - rich sunshine, HOT temperatures, a soft breeze that rustled the blooms of the ornamental grasses. The incredibly dedicated students and volunteers had put their final touches on the work they've been doing, and the Formal Garden looked phenomenal! I looked at the students and their work, the miracle of drawn circles and named plantings come to life in trees and shrubs and pathways and stone walls, and could have cried with the joy of it.
Guests arrived, caterer and volunteers brought food, and our guest of honor, our past college president, was overwhelmed with it all. I'll post photos later today as I can ... but the dedication went exceptionally well, was heart-warmingly received, and our students shined! I couldn't have asked for anything more. This was grace.
I got home very very late to some news. My mom is out of the hospital, but still weak, and my son was admitted to our local hospital with intenstinal problems. I went directly from the ceremony to the hospital and will be there most of the weekend. My computer time will be limited and I hope to continue my daily sketching as I sit with him in the event of surgery. He should be okay, but any hospital stay is a worrisome thing. I know your thoughts will be with my mom and son - and I thank you in advance for your kindness.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It's amazing to me that we can begin the day with freeze warnings and end the same day wearing short sleeved shirts! From the 30sF to the high 70sF ...! But I'm so grateful the weather will hold for our tree planting dedication later today.
I got home late last night and tired and couldn't paint my way out of a box -- sigh -- so this is a quick sketch I did this weekend when time was also compressed.
It'll be a late night by the time we finish with our guests, clean up sufficiently to have classes in the same building, pack my things and take my 2 hour ride home ... I should sleep well! LOL
Hope your day is filled with sunshine!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
With the busyness of last minute preparations for tomorrow's planting ceremony, it's a return to simplicity for evening sketching and watercolor practice.
I chose a pair of pears to practice a bit of glazing, and to try to keep my watercolors from becoming too dark or muddy. It's pear season here too - as well as apple season. The variety in shapes, colors, sizes, and tastes of both fruits were clearly evident at the agricultural displays at the fair. Wonderful to see - even better to eat! LOL
I'm off to more meetings and preparations ... have a great day!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The photo reference was taken a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to paint one last celebration of the profusion of Rudbeckias that blanketed the side of the road. There are some still in bloom, but with the deep dip in temperatures, many more of them have already withered.
The fair yesterday was wonderful! Though we started out cold, by afternoon, we were able to take off our coats and enjoy the 70F weather! Sun was shining, the garden and plant displays were incredibly imaginative and informative, and we've even more ideas to implement.
Today and for the rest of the week we ready things for Thursday's planting dedication. I've a ton of paperwork to wade through since I've been on the road -
Have a great day! And thank you all for your kindest remarks yesterday!
Monday, October 19, 2009
We're off with our students to the State Fair today. Each year participants create new themed garden designs and it's always informative to see the gardens they create. In fact, some of our own Arboretum aspects have come directly from ideas we've seen at the Fair. We're also scheduled to see the winning plant materials as well as vegetables and fruits. Since we're growing edibles in the kitchen garden, it will be good for the students to see other plants than those we've been growing ourselves. It should be a full day.
It's also mighty cold. Right now the temp is under 40F ...with frost predicted for tonight. Yet, we're in for a warming trend - and by Thursday, the day of our tree planting dedication for our past college president, the weather should be sunny and almost 80F! Yep, no wonder so many get the sniffles!
Have a grand day -- stay warm!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The tour of the zoo yesterday was fascianting! Our students were priviledged to the 'behind the scenes' operation of the NC Zoo (http://www.nczoo.org/) an incredible, first-class establishment that sets animals in native habitat. We walked and walked and walked over the grounds, learning how the landscape designs were created, the plants and their upkeep, the staff and their education, their propagation and restoration methods, oh yes, and a bit about the animals too. Not only was the trip exceedingly informative, it was FUN, and provided our own horticulture students with an opportunity to think beyond of the typical employment opportunities.
To say we were a bit 'chilled' yesterday morning would be an understatement. The day did warm up, but when we arrived, ALL of us, including those who claim to be 'warm-natured' were wishing for heavier coats. The weather is indeed turning .... Yes, we'll get another visit or two by summer's breath, but those will be short-lived and fleeting. We're expecting our first frost next week.
Which leads me to painting. I revisited the roadside I painted earlier this month. Those bright yellow rudbeckias have turned more golden-brown, and the trees, a brilliant yellow, now moving to red. Our foliage display, with the current rains and cold, is moving toward its own climax ... and it's wondrous to behold.
It wouldn't be fall without the state fair, and our students will be visiting the fair this Monday to see additional horticulural displays. Landscape design, plant choices are all part of this next visit, along with seeing the blue-ribbon winners of specific plants to emphasize plant production and care.
It's a busy, but really wonderful time of the year. Hmm... do I smell fair popcorn and candy apples?
Saturday, October 17, 2009
My walk along our roadsides, when it isn't raining as it has been most of this week, finds that the autumn harvest is drawing to a close. The purple grapes of muscadine are gone, the sumac berries have turned from their burgundy to russet, the cattails are beginning to yield their seeds to the wind.
Tucked here and there, the long-awaited wild persimmons have finally had sufficient cold to ripen to a rich orange and a delicious sweetness.
We fill our pockets with the 2" orbs, munching the soft fruit, and scattering the many seeds along the rest of the woodlands in hopes of additional trees.
Diospyros virginiana, or possumwood or American persimmon, can be found from New England to Florida and as far west as Texas and Kansas. The tree can reach just under 70 feet, and I've found it most often growing along moist roadsides - with its 'head' toward the sun, and its feet in the shade.
Small, white-yellow flowers appear in the spring - but in order to have any fruits, one must have both male and female trees for pollination. I have the male trees at the higher end of my property and the females toward the creek. Since pollinators include insects and wind, I'm imagining that the wind floats the pollen from my male trees down the road to the females about 300 feet away.
As we were picking the other day, a car passed us (the driver was checking out the yard sale of my neighbor) and we chatted about the fruits. Her father, she told us, would open the seeds to reveal the embryo inside. Each year, she said the embryo would take a shape - spoon, knife or fork. If it looked like a knife, the winter portended to be cold, a fork, a mild winter, or a spoon, a snowy winter. All the fruits would yield the same shaped embryo. When we opened a few seeds - we have spoons - we we'll see if it is truly going to snow a lot this winter!
The persimmons we purchase in the grocery stores are cultivated varities - and can belong to two groups - an astringent group, like the wild ones, or a non-astringent group, like Fuyu (Asian or Chinese) persimmons. The astringent fruits needs cold or frost in order to soften and ripen sufficiently for eating. Unripe, they can pucker your mouth and add a really distasteful 'cotton' to your tongue! The non-astringent persimmons can be eaten like an apple while they are still firm.
I love persimmons of all kind - and this year we've planted five Fuyus on the property. YUM!
We're off to the zoo today with our students. We're priviledged to have a 'behind the scenes' tour of the grounds and the plants they grow to give the animals a more natural setting. It's not going to reach 60F today, so I'll be in my coat and gloves ...! LOL
Hope your day is terrific!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Despite another day of gray skies, rain and cold (feels like winter instead of fall!), the conference was incredible! The highlight to me was the final speaker - a UNC-CH economics professor who gave a 90-minute informative, insightful talk about how our economy has reached the point that it has - and his ideas, and that of others, for getting out of this mess. In his words, it comes down to one simple thing: "Stop living beyond our means - reduce our consumption by 20%" -- in all things - from food to fuel to purchasing. "We must learn to delay our gratification," he continued, "so that when we do buy something, we really NEED it."
While this is simply an extraordinarily brief capsule of his rationale - I can see the benefit, and with his explanation - the logic. When I got home afterwards, I looked around my own home - and realized there were a lot of 'things' around that certainly weren't needed, purchased at some time or another without necessarily, any real thought OR need.
Like the process of creating a painting, there is an intential focus on a particular subject, an attention to feelings, SEEING, meaning as all those are transferred by creative expression onto paper. Is it no different, I am thinking, to begin to live as intentional? To make our purchases as thoughtful? To make our lives, as meaninful and with less waste?
I am still pondering his words and thinking through the ideas I heard these last two days. It's been a wonderful, mind-stretching time - and I've missed such intense mind-stretching discussions. I may have to return to college for another 'dose'! LOL
This painting was done from a photo I took last fall of an Oxford barn or shack that we came across while driving in the countryside. I had to wiggle my way though the thicket to get a good view of the aging structure -- but I loved the overgrowth of vegetation as it surrounded the building. I simplified the painting quite a bit to try to convey the overgrowth without too much clutter.
We're in for more rain and more cold today, and I've errands to run despite the weather. I hope your day is filled with ideas and intentional living.....
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I'm trying to take what I am learning currently through painting landscapes in a way I like to other topics - like flowers, architecture, and the like. And I"m finding it mighty challenging! LOL
It rained yesterday - a bleek, cold, gray day. Though we were indoors for conference sessions, the long drive, the lack of sunshine, the cold temps had me dreaming of sunny Italy - despite the truly fabulous presentations and information. So when I got home, I had to paint something with sunshine and light and bright flowers ... and yet try to keep it somewhat loose .... my perspective is a bit wonky ... but I'll blame that on fatigue! LOL
The conference on Global Education was truly most rewarding and enlightening. I've been to one conference several years ago, but the topics and speakers this year seemed even more relevant and timely....I have much to assimilate and think about. But one point that really had me singing --- the emphasis emerging in educational studies --- we must give more time and credence to 'right-brained' thinking. The importance of CREATIVITY in today's world, economy and politics cannot be stressed enough. Since 'knowledge' is accessible so readily through so many sources, such as the internet, then we must turn now to conceptual thinking and learn how best to USE this knowledge in new and better ways -- thus creativity, play, innovation -- all essential aspects - MUST return to our educational systems. WOW!!! (But then didn't we, involved in the art world as we are, know this on some level?) -- Still is was so good to have that all confirmed! VIVA daily art practice!!! LOL
Thank you all for your overwhelming comments yesterday. I returned from the conference literally floored by your generous notes and invitations. Thank you -- most humbly.
I'm off again to another day at the conference. Temps are in the 40s -- MIGHTY cold for me - and more rain. The kitties have returned to their basket on the porch - sleeping in a huddle for warmth ....
Stay well! And PLAY today -- it's important!!!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
We were certainly blessed by the weather yesterday. With forecasts of rain and cold all week, yesterday was a bright spot of incredibly blue skies, sunshine, warm temperatures, and a stupendous mix of delightful Arboretum participants, fall foliage and blooms, and an INCREDIBLE lecturer who, through her knowledge, enthusiasm, and love of plants and nature, gave us such insights into the Asian Gardens at Duke - that to say we had a grand time would be an understatement! Pam Beck (http://www.pambeckgardens.com/index.html) is one of North Carolina's treasures, and she so kindly graced our trip as she lead us through the gardens. The sense of serenity, aesthetic detailing, wonderful beauty of the gardens were all enhanced by Pam's knowledgeable commentary. What GRACE!
We then dined at a Thai restaurant to continue the Asian feel of the day - scrumptious!
We finished the tour by viewing the SEEDS Project (http://seedsnc.org/) where we were priviledged to see wonderful community gardens and those gardens tended by school-age children - the produce of which, C and I have purchased at the Farmer's Market. Really wonderful to know where much of our food comes from!
I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that yesterday was a brilliant star in a gray, rainy week .....! WOW! Thank you once more Pam!!
I'm off to a conference for the remainder of the week, so I'll be out of touch until late in the evening.
I so hope your day will be as delightful as we've experienced yesterday ....filled with sunshine, flowers, and peace.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
According to Robert Genn, "Art is fluid, transmutable, open ended, never complete, and never perfect. Art is an event." I couldn't agree more ...
And while I"m so anxious to agree, there is also that very real part of me (as in all of us I believe) that struggles toward some 'goal, ideal, method, style' despite what we instinctively know to be true. I find myself lately dreaming paint, brush strokes, ideas. I study works I admire, books, lessons.
And in all that, while aiming for some goals I've set, I know I must never lose the joy of simply painting - the process, the very act of observing, seeing, noticing, feeling - that very inpetus that creates such delight and abandon - the 'flow or zone' that we tend to enter when our art and our hearts are joined.
I want to remember this - especially in the thick of experiencing the changes that come when one's work is moving in different directions in style, approach, outcome. It's a challenging time! LOL
We accomplished quite a bit yesterday in the garden - despite working in the rain most of the day. We harvested our first fall crop of lettuces, kale, chard, cabbage, and we spent some time cleaning the harvest, cooking and preparing a celebratory lunch. We began making tunnels and cages over the rows and beds of vegetables so we can add floating row cloth to keep the first frost, due in a couple of weeks, from harming the plants. Busy.
Today we take a vanful of guests to Duke Gardens for a lecture and tour of their Asian Gardens, and then visit the SEEDS project to see how other students are growing their plants. The weather should be sunny this morning and cool, changing to rain by mid-afternoon. Fingers crossed.
This sketch, done in that wonderful painting 'zone' reminds me of the walk C and I took a week ago in a new park our county has created. The new trail winds through woodlands simliar to those we live under, but then clammers down toward the river. The view we caught, with overhanging trees and a slow-moving current, wasn't as picturesque as this ... but that wonderful combination of water, trees, and wild grasses ..... serenity.
Have a great day!
Monday, October 12, 2009
I thought I'd change the pace a bit and post something a bit different. I found a photo reference to this flowered building, and since I hadn't sketched or painted a piece of architecture lately, thought I'd post it. Those greens were challenging taking up an entire wall! LOL I painted this about ten days ago.
Thank you all for your kind comments yesterday. I do feel I'm experimenting with a different approach to my paintings, and I'm finding myself impatient with my own inclinations towards detailing too much - NOT that that impatience is enough to keep me from falling into repeating that habit , but I'm feeling that frustration that comes when you're trying to make some needed changes and you're not quite 'there' yet. So thank you again for your encouragment!
I'm off to work and an overfilled day of teaching and preparing for being out of the office all week with trips and conferences ... so if I will be off the computer for quite a while today.
Hope your day is grand!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Bill proposed another challenge (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorus_maver/2361769563/) and it seems that each challenge photo comes with its own set of new things to learn. Wonderful opportunities to stretch and grow! THANK YOU once more Bill!
C is having his jam here this afternoon and we've got friends coming for dinner, so painting time will be somewhat compressed. We've had a bit of rain, though not as much as anticipated. I'm missing those spectacular sunrises and sunsets when the sky is so overcast. Another reason to attempt this scene!
Hope everyone has a music-filled, creative day!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I spent more time than intended on the Internet yesterday morning, just looking and dreaming, and as the sun rose over my woodland trees, the light poured into my office window, and, still clad in nightwear, I just HAD to grab the camera to try to capture the light.
In slippers and robe, I walked the damp grass trying to capture the brilliant yellow, deep greens, the backlit trunks of trees and the bits of red just making their color change in our vegetation. The air was still a bit cool, but so fresh and so clean that it was sheer elixir! As I snapped photo after photo in those fleeting minutes, John Denver's Song "In the Grand Way" came to me .... especially this:
"Burning sundown, colored autumn trees
Mountain rivers, country livers put my mind at ease
And to realize such perfect harmonies
I'm standin in the dawn
Of a new day comin' on
And I'm looking for no tomorrow ...."
And I realized again, just WHY I love the morning .....
Friday, October 09, 2009
The week has flown by it seems, and we've a quiet weekend planned before an exceptionally busy two weeks. I'm hoping to get in some additional painting and a bit of rest. Next week we winterize the class gardens, travel with a group for one of the Arboretum's lecture series, and the rest of the week is spent in conference ... It seems this entire semester has been an amplification of events, activities, and obligataions ... whew.
I painted this from a photo reference ... It seems lately that my daily mantra of 'what do I want to paint today?' has been inclined toward landscapes and loosening up, trying to work with fewer paint strokes, to work more swiftly and without fussing, trying to be a bit more expressive and less fussy with detail. I hope so - and I hope that I can transfer this same 'inclination' when I return to painting more florals and still lifes. So I'm tending to paint more and more landscapes while this 'attitude/inclination' prevails hoping that I can make this internal drive more of a 'natural' way of painting instead of the struggle it has been. We'll see.
Meanwhile, landscapes, as the fall colors continue towards the reds and golds of later Autumn in NC, the temperatures cool, and the days grow shorter.
Have a great one!
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Ever gaze at a scene through a thicket of fall berries? That's what this scene reminded me of - those times one stops to peer through the roadside vegetation to see the fields and trees beyond.
I painted this from a photo reference - but it could have easily been from a roadside where I live. Right now, the berries of roses, smilax, sumac, grapes and others are entangled among the grasses and trees - much like this.
I LOVE these kinds of views -- nature abandoned to do what she does best - and always a surprise of her beauty and spontaneity!
Thank you for your well wishes -- I'm feel much better today and hope you stay well too!
We've an all-day 'professional development' session today, and I've a talk to give -- so I'm off to shorten my talk a bit ....my boss tells me I tend to 'go on' about subjects I like! LOL
Have a great day!
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
My dear friend Ronah (http://www.flickr.com/photos/35209271@N07/) has graciously allowed me to use one of her awesome photos to paint from. This sketch is based on her photo entitled - "Autumn's Sparkle!" I fell in love with those delicate grass filaments against a sea of red flowers ..... THANK YOU RONAH for the inspiration!
I've been under the weather with a stomach virus these last few days, but feeling well enough to get back to work today. Funny thing about being not one's best - everything feels 'off' --- as though the world isn't turning quite the same way. Makes painting and inspiration even more challenging! LOL And I especially thank you again, Ronah for helping with the INSPIRATION!!!
It's been raining here and the overcast skies have been very restive. The sun is due out today and will certainly brighten things!
Hope your day is great!
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
While we were visiting the gardens of Old Salem, NC, this unusual vine covered one of the fences. It was labeled "Balsam Apple" - a plant I never heard of before. There were some opened fruits - the flesh as bright an orange as this, and the inside covered with incredibly bright, scarlet/red seeds. It looked edible - but we thought we should check resources before tasting.
Good thing we did!
Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina) is a plant original to Africa, and brought to the US by Jefferson, and is considered an 'old southern' plant. According to Wikipedia, "In the Philippines it is called "ampalaya" by the Tagalogs. It is a popular vegetable in the island of Luzon where it is mixed with other vegetables to make a stew. It is also sauteed with either shrimp, meat, pork, chicken and served with thick gravy.
While the leaves are safe to eat, the seeds can be toxic if too many are injested. Although they do sell Balsam supplements, like all things moderation is key."
Yet other sources I checked said the fruit was highly toxic ... a weed in Florida, used as a liniment by adding the pulped fruit (without the seeds) to almond oil for chapped hands, the fluid extract used to help with dropsy. According to Perdue University, the fruit is boiled when immature and eaten like a vegetable.
So there you go - its edibility can all depend on which part you eat, when you eat it, how you cook it.....
For me, I'm opting for safety and will delight in its ornamental beauty and fall colors ....
Monday, October 05, 2009
This challenging scene came from a wonderful photo by Ciuccio (see above). I fell in love with the view - reminding me at one of the cattail area I have been photographing near my home. I decided to add a few cattails to the stream and focus a bit more on the foliage than the rocks ... though if I repaint it, I think I'd make the rocks more prominent.
THANK YOU, Ciuccio and Gerry for another terrific challenge!
Sunday, October 04, 2009
When Emily and Nick arrived, we played a bit with the cats - Emily and Nick trying unsuccessfully to catch them - then off we were for a day in the incredibly beautiful weather. A quick meal at a fast food drive-in, then to the pumpkin farm.
I was not able to go with the grands the times they previously visited the farm, so I was surprised to see the HUGE gathering of people and children, and the displays and games for the kids! It reminded me of a mini-carnival - but all farm-themed. There was a train ride around the fields, a place to feed goats, chickens and even a llama!, a pond to feed the fish and ducks, a jump-zone for bouncing, pony rides, face painting, a place to eat, popcorn and kettle corn and ice cream and snacks, a giant slide (the first one I've ever been on believe it or not -- mercy, you go down that thing FAST! LOL), a hay jump - which the grands encouraged me to get in and have a hay toss with them ...C said I looked just like a kid in there with Emily and Nick, and I was pulling hay out of my hair all night! LOL), a maze and finally a hayride to the pumpkin patch to choose a pumpkin.
I have to admit that when we got back I was truly exhausted! All that fresh air and play found me falling asleep at the art table. Good thing I finished this painting last weekend! LOL
Still, the scene I painted was what we have been viewing all week - and fall is in its glory. The painting was done from a photo reference of a barn I photographed last year at this time about 5 miles from my home. I painted it once before but never posted because I didn't due it justice ... so I repainted it last weekend. I know I've said this before - but I just LOVE this time of year!
BTW, did you see the moon last night?! My gracious -- it was so full and so bright, it was casting long, long, shadows!
I would also like to share an author, now passed on, who used to write a nature column for the NY Times - Hal Borland. One of his books "Sundial of the Seasons" is one of my favorites - and, with the air crisp and cool this morning, the dogwoods already red, and chestnuts on the stove, I'd like to share a bit of his entry for October:
"October is the year at rich maturity, a happy woman arrayed in festival dress and ready for a dance with a giant come down from the hills attired in a red, red shirt, buckskin pants and moccasins, beaded with frost. October is a brisk wind in the treetops, a whisper among crisp leaves, a breath of apple cider, a gleam from a jack-o'-lantern, and the echo of laughter under a full moon.....The pumpkin's in the pie in October. The corn's in the crib or the freezer...October is plenty and savor, and the hearty meal and time to relax. October is the year come to harvest, in the barn, in the mow, in the root cellar, the jam closet the cold pantry....October is the power and the glory, to touch, to taste, to hear and to see. October is the splender and the magnificence." (Hal Borland)
Amen, I say, amen.
Go outdoors -- and enjoy it ...!
Saturday, October 03, 2009
It's a 'nutty' time of year - both figuratively and literally. And for those of us who enjoy the autumn nut crop - it seems this year is another one of bounty.
Rebecca, whose garden and yard are enviable, has several enormous chustnut trees, planted over 40 years ago when she and her husband moved into her family's original home. The American Chestnut , once a dominant tree and the fruits a staple of the Native Americans, was virtually obliterated in the early 1900s from a blight that literally wiped out entire populations of the tree. Enormous strides have been made to find those trees resistant to the blight to reproduce them and return the American Chestnut to the forests and streets of our country.
Rebecca tells me that she planted Chinese chestnuts - a species resistant to the blight. And this year, the crop is a bumper.
Last week, we took our students to her home to dig up the extra trees, shrubs and plants that had volunteered in her garden. While there, they also gathered some of the nuts for planting and a few for roasting. Rebecca, incredibly generous, gave me over a GALLON of these, and so my weekend is being devoted to rendering them into delicious recipes.
But first, I had to sketch them, and for some reason, the drawing, with it's twists turns and whatevers, was as prickly as those outer shells of the nut! LOL
Since we have so many of the nuts, we must remove the hulls and either roast, dry or boil them so we can then use them for cooking as well as preserving them for the year. Chestnuts have been a family tradition for us for YEARS, but we always had a difficult time finding them in our area grocery stores.
Charles and I cut the raw nuts in half, boiled them with a bit of salt for 15-20 minutes in a large pot of water, and then removed the kernels from the shell. A process that took us over 3 hours for a single pot of nuts!
I then took the drained meats, ground them in my coffee grinder, and made a scrumptious chestnut bread. I used the recipe I had for 'acorn' bread ... it's a quick bread and yummy:
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup honey
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chestnut meal (flour - I used damp meal, but you can use dried chestnut flour)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup pine nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dried elderberries (I used raisins and dried cherries)
Thoroughly mix the first ten ingredients, adding the nuts and dried fruit. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan (or several of the small aluminum bread pans) and bake at 350F degrees for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Today we take the grands to the pumpkin patch .. so it'll be another busy day.
Hope you have a great one!
Friday, October 02, 2009
A Tumble of Leaves and a Belated Happy Birthday to Gerry!
Originally uploaded by linfrye
Some of the most talented and generous individuals are often the most quiet and modest ....and we have one of them among us. Our friend, group administrator and incredible artist - Gerry (http://www.flickr.com/photos/segismundoart/) - quietly celebrated a birthday last week - and didn't mention a word to us.
Well, my dear heart -- for all you and Bill do to keep us challenged, for the generosity in your heart to share your most wondrous art and talent, for the kind and generous person you are -- may we all wish you a BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And we all hope it was as wonderful and creative as you and joy-filled as the wonder of your art!
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul." (John Muir)
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Thank you all SO very much for your kindest birthday wishes! Your generous words truly helped make the day wonderful!
I couldn't have asked for a more fall-like day with clear blue skies, coolish temperatures, bright sun, and the lack of work-related stress that comes so infrequently lately. What a gift!
My co-worker, who will celebrate her birthday today -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY MINDA! - and I went to Cape Fear Botanical Garden to learn more about their 'southern' gardens, how they operated, and how they got through some of the same growing pains we're experiencing. They were in the midst of getting ready for their open house, but one of the Board members was there and we chatted a long while. She was with the gardens since their inception, and so it was very encouraging to learn how they've overcome some of the hurdles.
We walked along the Cape Fear River - the pavillion and path the only things I remember from my first trip to those gardens over 15 years ago - so it was truly delightful to see how far they've grown. We enjoyed their additions of an old farm house and tobacco barn, how they conceptualized their 'children's garden,' how they've managed to keep deer away from their hosta collection, and more. The walk, fresh air, good company, and the hours spent in 'dream time' were most restorative and encouraging. Again, an incredible gift.
We got back to work after lunch and hit the paperwork until classes began last night. I got to the B&B before dark, but despite such a wonderful day, I couldn't paint my way out of a paper box! LOL (This painting was finished earlier this week.)
Today it's more paperwork. Rebecca generously gave me a bucket of fresh chestnuts!!!! OH my gracious! So this weekend, in addition to taking the grands to the pumpkin patch, I'll be hunting recipes for chestnut bread, candied chestnuts, and figuring out how to can or freeze them all! WOWEE! Chestnuts are one of our family's favorites. I've planted some for the Arboretum and hope some of the seeds germinate. I'd love to see a huge chestnut tree on our grounds!
Again, thank you all for your most kind birthday wishes! BIGGEST OF HUGS!