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A Yard Full of Delights

A Yard Full of Delights

 

Anna’s Hummingbird

Twenty-one years ago today, I celebrated my mother’s 82nd birthday with her and my father, at the house I had just gotten the keys to the day before. We ate cake sitting on folding chairs in the empty living room.

The huge yard was landscaped in the front, had an ivy covered western fence, and three large trees, two Modesto Ash, and one huge sycamore. The back yard had an orange tree and a peach tree along the back fence, while the ground was covered with Bermuda grass. I had visions of future grandchildren playing soccer or badminton out there.

Ten years later my three granddaughters lived in Camas, Washington, and I was getting rid of the Bermuda grass which was brown in the winter and sunburned in the summer. I bought a redwood tree for $5.99 at the grocery store and planted a small vegetable garden.

I didn’t make a plan for the garden, I just bought plants that looked interesting and stuck them here and there. In the winter ten years ago, I dug a narrow meandering stream and hauled two truck loads of river rock across town in my Chevy S-10 pickup, placing them in the stream bed one by one. The photo at the top of my website is from the following spring.

The house also came with a simple bird feeder hanging from a beam which is directly in front of my kitchen window. These days I hear bird song all day long even with the windows closed.

I’ve pretty much stopped buying plants. In the last three or four years, new plants just show up in the garden—some welcome, some not. I have not just planted a garden, I provide habitat for all manner of bugs, bees, praying mantis, dragonflies, at least seven species of butterflies, and unhappily, many squirrels.

The birds coming to the feeder are doves, juncos, chickadees, warblers, sparrows, and Scrub Jays, who scold me loudly if the feeder is empty. The mockingbirds think my strawberry patch belongs to them and take one bite out of the berry, while a squirrel calmly sits on the top of the fence, delicately holding a red strawberry in its paws, taking one small bite at time.

Other birds frequent my garden on their way north in the spring and going south in the fall. These are the robins who hang out for about two weeks, small yellow-green finches, and starlings who walk across my side yard like soldiers on parade looking for snails.

The Cedar Waxwings come through in February or March and clean off the pyracantha berries in two days. I often hear and spot the woodpecker drilling the big trees. I have a pair of Phoebes who nest under my eves. I love to watch the Swainson’s hawks soar and glide far over head, teaching their babies to fly.

The Anna’s hummingbird is mostly grey with a red triangle on its throat. They stay in the valley year round and I see them flying about every day. They work over a flower, ascend straight up, pause, then go to another plant. They make a clicking sound, so even if I don’t see them I know they are there.

I don’t know how many hummingbirds are in my yard, but there must be several. Some days I see one catching a drink from the spray in my fountain. In the winter when only the sage is blooming, it seems as if, when a hummer sees me it will fly over near me, and hover until I say hello.

Late one afternoon last week, I went out to pick the first of the blackberries. As I stepped into the bed, a hummingbird landed on the top rail of the tomato cage I use to support the berry branches. I stopped moving and the bird looked at me, first just facing me straight on, but then turned and cocked its head first with one eye and then the other, back and forth, checking me out. It opened its beak and stuck out its long tongue. Eye to eye we were for the longest time until the bird rose up and headed for a bright red flower several feet away.

I am so blessed.

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From Weeding My Books to Creating with Weeds

From Weeding My Books to Creating with Weeds

As a treat after spending the first three months of 2018 weeding my books and old magazines, I was in Visalia, California for the weekend at the 7th Biennial Conference — Baskets and Gourds — Containers of Our Culture. This was my third time attending this conference.

The weekend included a gallery reception on Friday evening of work created by the teachers .

Members of BABM at the Art gallery

I particularly like this conference, held at the Visalia Elks Lodge, because it is a large open room and we can walk around and see what other classes are doing.  The location draws craft people from Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Sacramento area. A dozen or more of my friends from the Bay Area Basket Makers (BABM) were there.

Participants had an all day class on Saturday and a different class on Sunday.

Classes in a large open room

My Saturday class was about how to use copper sheeting to make jewelry or embellishments for baskets. For me, this was a opportunity to become familiar with the materials, tools, and using a torch to anneal the metal, which softens it so it is easier to work with, and to bring up different colors. We learned numerous ways to connect metal pieces together, to use them as pendants or earrings. This was a good introduction, but I will need to play with this material some more to develop the skills to make what I envision.

My Saturday class was actually outdoors because we were using torches to heat metal and hammering. People cleaning and carving gourds also work outside.

Saturday evening featured a catered dinner and guest speaker, JoAnn Kelly Catsos from Western Massachusetts, who makes traditional type baskets using a mold.

My Sunday class was making a small basket using both twinning and weaving of the elements. The bottom and vertical spokes are Western Red Cedar bark gathered on the Pacific Northwest Coast from trees that were being cut for logging. Our instructor, Polly Adams Sutton, had prepared the cedar spokes for our use. We twinned with a three sided rush, Northwest sweet grass, Scheonoplectus pungens, from tidal flats in Washington. At the same time, we wove Beargrass between the spokes, so that the twining was securing the bear grass.

Chasing Beargrass

This class was more fun than Saturday’s and I could work quickly because I often make twinned baskets. When I go to this sort of class my intention is to learn something new and make a sample. Making a more perfect product takes repeated practice and careful attention to detail, such as trimming the Beargrass to be a consistent width.

I think this combination technique would be interesting with different materials like yarn and cording.

I drove back to Stockton late Sunday afternoon, arriving just before dark. Monday, of course, involved putting away equipment and sorting out handouts and freebies. By 4 p.m. I was fighting to stay awake, and a short nap lasted two hours. All that concentrated creative effort, abundant stimulation from people, and new ideas used more energy than I expected.

 

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If Your ‘Word for the Year’ is “WEED”

If Your ‘Word for the Year’ is “WEED”

Blooming now in my yard.

Weeding seems to have become my full-time occupation. Why is it that once you start, you suddenly notice more and more places that need your attention?

My first big clean up project this year concerned honeysuckle growing up a fence that separates

Honeysuckle I spent two weeks pruning.

the garden area of the backyard from the apartment behind my garage, plus a storage unit and wood shed. I have never really pruned this plant except when it sent long stringers on the ground.

Last fall, a well meaning friend trimmed it for me when he was looking for something to do to be helpful. He did such a good job that all the dead wood at the top of the fence was hanging down exposed below the green canopy. In February, the weather was nice and I realized that if I was going to clean out that dead stuff I needed to do it then, before new growth began. This took a full two weeks of afternoons, and I’m glad it did it, but nothing else, like art making, got done.

As soon as that was finished, I noticed the strawberry bed was full of grass and weeds while the plants were starting to put out new leaves.

Meanwhile, indoors I have been weeding through old magazines that I saved to use for collage images. When you want to do a collage quickly, going through magazines looking for images is a sure recipe for frustration. Besides, I need the shelf space for all the ephemera – nuts, bolts, rusty metal, gears, washers, and keys that I bring home from estate sales.

I already have a picture file that I started for my high school art class. So these images and words I’m cutting out of the magazines will be added to those files. Our recycling is picked up every other week, and this year I’ve put out at least a twenty-four inch stack of magazines for each pickup. I still have a way to go, but the end is in sight.

Back outdoors, two weeks ago my yard man weed whacked so severely a small area between the driveway and my lot line that I could see the dirt. This patch was full of burr clover, which has seeds with teeth that get stuck in your socks or cling to your pants. I’ve been wanted to get this cleaned out for several years, but it just seemed too overwhelming.

Of course, the roots of these nasty plants are still in the ground, only now they are easy to see. And with all the rain it is a perfect time to dig this stuff out. I know, I could spray them, but then the grass between them will die, and I would still have to get the dead stuff out to plant good stuff.

On the days it rains or is too wet to work outside, I’m weeding inside. I have this addiction to books. Most of my friends have this problem also. There comes a time when we have to say goodbye to books we have read and won’t read again, or have lost interest in that subject. Fortunately, I live half a mile away from a “Friends of the Library” book store and my books will find new owners. I have ten bookcases of various sizes and I’ve weeded six of them.

Tulips Vinnie helped me plant.

The best part of weeding is being in my yard to enjoy the birds and all the flowering plants like the tulips my grandson, Vinnie, helped me plant some years back

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Valentines Remembered

Valentines Remembered

The first Valentine’s Day I remember was probably in 1963. It was certainly the most spectacular. I was living in Parma, Ohio with my parents and brother. I had just gotten home from work when the door bell rang, and Mother asked me to answer it because she was cooking dinner.

I was surprised to see a man holding a large floral arrangement which he said was for Marilyn Thayer. I took the heavy, Florist Telegraph Delivery (FDT)  bouquet in a small, white pedestal vase from the man and carried it to the kitchen where there was no room to set it down. My mother made a space for it in the dining room. It consisted of white carnations and feathery greens in a triangle shape, with a large red bow.

It came from Ray Erickson who was studying engineering in Atlanta at Georgia Tech. We had become acquainted two years before during football season in our senior year of high school. Over the weekend, I painted a detailed watercolor of the bouquet, so Ray could see what he had sent me.

Now, fast forward about forty-five years. My boyfriend comes by my house on Valentine’s and presents me with a gift bag. Whatever is nestled inside the pink tissue is heavy. I’m thinking chocolate. I reach in and pull out a pink something.

Pink Ceramic Valentine

What was it?  It was clearly a valentine with two red hearts pierced by an arrow.

It was ceramic. It looked like a purse with a red ribbon handle on each side. Maybe it was a vase, although to me it looked like a ceramic gift bag. I was in shock!  What would I do with it?  It was PINK!

I don’t do pink. I don’t wear pink. I don’t have pink things in my house. Pink flowers in the garden are the exception.

For a number of months the pink “object de art” sat on top of a file cabinet, and I tried to ignore it because didn’t fit anywhere in my home. It was a concrete reminder of the differences between me and my guy. He likes classy things, I’m home-spun. He likes hot and spicy, I’m butter and salt. He’s out-going, I’m shy. He likes to shake things up, I like to know what to expect.

But we both like to talk to each other, we love books and read them, we worked together as a team at the VA, and we have an interest in art—he collects it, I make it.

In 2009, when I moved my studio into my house from the apartment behind my garage, I needed something to hold a handful of markers. I had run out of old coffee cups for holding pens and pencils. That pink thing was sitting on a shelf and it was just the right size.

Last year, my love said, “I never know what to get you—your taste is so different from mine.”

Today, the pink valentine is holding some big brushes in my newly reorganized studio. It is the only valentine gift of my seventy some years that I still see every day. It reminds me of all the exciting, crazy, and caring moments I have had with this man.

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Weed

Weed

I was reading one of those goal-setting articles last week which made the suggestion of selecting a word for the year. I have done this before some years and I usually forget all about it by February when I’m in the thick of whatever project has captured my imagination.

Without even thinking, I wrote in the space provided: “Weed.”

Yesterday, while listening to the radio, the discussion was about the newly, legal in California, Cannabis. I laughed when I suddenly realized that my sons and my boyfriend will be dumbfounded if they see the title of this blog.

But I’m not thinking about the noun, I’m going for the verb. Webster says weed is frequently used with the word out, as in “weed out unqualified applicants.”

After three years of writing a book, undesirable plants have taken over whole sections of my yard. This winter I’ll be digging out ajuga as well as burr clover, privet, palm, the occasional dandelion, and Bermuda grass. I plan to sit in the yard for an hour or two a day if the weather is nice and remove the offenders.

Inside the house is where I really intend to weed. When I worked at the public library in Dublin, California, we had way more books than shelf space, and those of us who shelved the books were constantly imploring the librarians to weed the collection.

My book shelves are packed with books from college and grad school, from studying homeopathy, on how to write and publish, from attending estate sales where wonderful books can be had for a dollar or less, and from being addicted to acquiring books from sellers who offer discounted remainders and send me monthly catalogs of their new arrivals. I must clear some shelf space if I’m going to keep acquiring books.

Magazines I have saved for years that have words and pictures that might be just what I need in a collage, need to be quickly looked at and cut out before the recycling bin takes them. How to file those images and words so I can find them later is still being determined.

Hopefully, after all the time and energy I use weeding, I’ll still have some left for making art.

And if I can get the books and magazines under control, I won’t have to weed my art supplies for a few more years.

 

 

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Imagining Heaven

Imagining Heaven

Doris Ida Thayer
May 30,1915 – December 29, 2010

The last time I sat and talked with my mother was December 27, 2010. She had been living in a nursing home for the last nine months after she broke her hip at my house. She was finally opening the Christmas gifts she had refused to open when I visited her on December 24, before I drove to Roseville to be with my son, Chris and his family.

She had been grumpy on my last two visits, but today she was agreeable. I showed her a card that had come in the mail from the son of one of her high school friends. I read his note to her that explained that his mother had passed away during the summer. My mother took the card and read it to me, saying “Oh, that’s too bad.” This was the last of her life-long friends to die.

As I was leaving, I noticed Mother had a bit of a cough, sounding low in her chest. Two days later, I was awakened at 7:20 a.m. by the nursing home staff telling me that my mother was being sent to the ER because her blood pressure was low, she didn’t want to get up, and she didn’t seem right to them.

By the time I got to the hospital, they had determined she had had a heart attack early that morning, and probably had pneumonia. They had her on an IV trying to stabilize her blood pressure, which was continuing to drop.

I guess she knew I was there but she didn’t say my name. I was told she was not likely to recover. I requested they provide comfort care, but not to prolong her suffering. She was becoming agitated because she wasn’t getting enough oxygen so they gave her some morphine, and after the IV was stopped she passed in about twenty minutes.

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand our relationship while writing my memoir the last few years.

Last week, I watched a YouTube of a song where a family member has died, it’s Christmas, they are grieving, but taking comfort in knowing their loved one is with the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.

I don’t have a picture in my mind of how heaven will look, and I don’t think about it much, although I realize that some day I will go there, too.

As the song went on, I thought about how I had not grieved a lot at her death because she had lived a long life and the last few years she was often confused and probably lonely. On the rare occasions when I think about seeing her again in heaven, I expect she will still be on my case for my short-comings.

But now, listening to that song, it occurs to me that if she is with the Prince of Peace she would be sanctified, and will see me as He sees me. Perhaps this is how healing begins. It’s time.

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December Rituals

December Rituals

I suspect that many people have rituals – a set of procedures – they follow during the holidays and the end of the year. We see our parents doing certain things each year and find ourselves doing similar things when we have our own household.

Things like when is the right time to put up decorations, or which cookies to bake, and countless other preparations that almost take on a life of their own. And for a number of years that is the way we do the holidays in our family.

My main holiday ritual was baking cookies. I had maybe half-a-dozen cookies that I only made for Christmas: frosted and decorated sugar cookies, mint surprise cookies, almond crescents, spritz, made with a cookie press, were all recipes I had made with my mother. Over the years I added new ones and stopped making the ones that took too much time.

As we moved around the country, buying or making gifts early, wrapping them, and mailing them became another ritual of sorts.

Working at the Livermore Veterans Hospital had its own set of rituals: the Saturday when the volunteers put up decorations, the groups that visited the patients with gifts and goodies, Santa’s visit on Christmas morning. It was fun, and my part was to escort the visitors around and be sure all my vets got their handouts.

Twenty years ago, when I bought my house in Stockton, I added another December ritual to my calendar. I call it “Leaves to the Street.” Right next to my house is a huge sycamore tree. It is my summer air conditioning system. The dinner-plate size leaves shade my house all summer.

And, of course, in December they fall or blow off the tree. Sycamore leaves from my tree are like leather. They do not decompose. If I don’t remove them, they will be here next July.

San Joaquin County has a leaf removal service to keep the leaves out of the storm drains. All I have to do it get them into the street before one of the two pick-up days. I get lots of exercise getting them to the street. And I have a system. I rake a small area and put them into an old wheeled trash can which I wheel out to the street and dump on the pile.

Monday’s strong winds blew the leaves into piles here and there so they are easier to pick up without a lot of raking. With my big tree, it will be the first week in January before the leaves are all gone. It doesn’t take much thinking to get the leaves into the street.

So while I’m doing that, I’m going to be thinking about what direction I want to take in my studio. I know I need to do some cleaning up in my art space, so how can I make it better? What supplies am I wanting to work with? Are there supplies I should pass on to someone else? What size work feels comfortable to me at this time? Do I have anything started that needs to be finished? Do I want to show my work next year? Where?

What creative projects are you eager to start after your December rituals?

 

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One Can Never Have Too Many Giraffes

One Can Never Have Too Many Giraffes

When a child visits a zoo they are usually asked what animal is their favorite. Mine has always been the giraffe. No particular reason, I just liked them best.

In the Cleveland zoo when I was little, the giraffes stayed on the far side of their space, near the trees (food) and minded their own business. They shared the enclosure with ostriches who liked to come up to the wall and suddenly pop up at eye level to me. That was scary and too close for comfort.

I think it was in Virginia, 1973 – 1978, that our church had an annual event where handcrafted items from Africa were available one weekend in the fall to purchase as gifts. It was some kind of traveling mission sale that went from church to church. There were textiles, instruments, and hand-carved giraffes from Kenya. A mother and juvenile giraffe came as a set and I bought two sets.

Some years later, on a visit to Chris’s house in Santa Cruz, we stopped at a drug store, and while Chris was in the check-out line I spotted a tall giraffe in a display of gifts. This one was eighteen inches tall with real (goat) fur. I had to take him home with me.

After that, I began to encounter giraffes that needed a home more frequently. They were in boxes of tea bags, at estate sales, in thrift shops, as the handle on a coffee cup. I have one on the case on my iPhone, on blouses and jackets, and as earrings, necklaces.

Giraffe from Pittsburgh

About once a year I walk through the house and count the “herd” which  now numbers forty, if I include pictures and screen savers. Curiously, I have not painted any giraffes, but years ago I made one out of wire.

Now my kids pick up unusual giraffes if they see them. It’s the easiest gift to get me. It seems my newest giraffe was homeless in Pittsburgh, and Jeremy brought him to California for a birthday gift.

He’s seven and a half inches tall.

Welcome to the herd.

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News Flash

News Flash

I’m happy to tell you that the book I have been working on for the last three years, “Looking for Connection,” has been submitted to Amazon for an eBook. In the book I tell the stories of the art you have been seeing here within the context of my life. I show the path I took to become an art therapist, and I share the adventures I had on shell collecting trips and other travels.

 

It will be available at Amazon.com in their Kindle books in a few days.

I expect to have some special discount price days later this month — so stay tuned.

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Across the Ravine

Across the Ravine

Cincinnati is a city of hills and valleys and I lived there from 1966 to 1971. I was learning to weave and I was also painting. After a year or so, we moved across town into a two-bedroom duplex. There was a painting class one evening a week at the nearby library. The instructor encouraged us to paint on location around town, and I tried it a few times.

Across the Ravine

I had been painting in oils when I lived on the east side, but I started to use acrylics in the class because my oil paintings often looked muddy when I finally finished them. This is painted on the smooth side of Masonite board.

I believe this painting is oil because when I look closely at the painting, I notice that the buildings appear to be drawn in with the brush. When I did painting at home, I did careful drawing of structures and items in a still life, and the edges would have been sharper.

This landscape didn’t get muddy from reworking it because it was done on site.

As I recall, this was along Harrison Avenue and I set up my easel on an empty corner across the road from the scene. Looking at the painting today, I find it hard to believe I painted it plein aire.

Of course this was before I had children, and times were different.

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