“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Wings for the new year

The fluttering of a bird's wings awoke me this morning.

Sunshine/flit/shadow/flit/sunshine/flit/shadow/flit, quick, quick, quick against my closed eyelids, the pattern of light a silent wake-up call from the Universe. And so the year comes to a soft end, my bird muse nearby, happy in the outdoor sun, patient with me, letting me sleep longer than usual, letting me be late on this slow workday, Maggie outside long before, in the 5:30 darkness.

Last year I had one resolution for the new year. More art. That was it - that was all. I wanted to find some wings, try them on, fly around a bit, see what I thought. Those wings? Oh, I thought, I'll make them of maps of the night sky, pieces of broken stars, mockingbird feathers. I'll attach fireflies to the edges come summertime, and white tulips in the spring. At Christmas, tiny silver bells, almost silent, so that when I moved my heart would hear the sound before my ears. Freshwater pearls & remnants of storm clouds captured in jars, sealed with wax & wrapped in baby blue ribbon. Arrow leaves, white rocks - oh, there's a story I've yet to tell - and the sound of a purring cat. Magical wings. Not those of an angel, but those of an artist. I've learned to be comfortable with that idea - artist. I've learned to embrace it a bit, to feed it what it needed - solitude, friendship, belief in silly ideas.

So this new year? This coming year? What now, what next? Well, more art, I say again. But this year, more words also. I've learned to fly from tree to tree, but I'm ready to soar a bit higher, to glide a while on a cool breeze. This year I'll add to my wings - I want owl feathers & silver handprints of those I love, I want cat pawprints across vanilla silk edged with white embroidery & porcupine quills - I know where to find them. I want a fallen piece of the windchime hanging from the tree next to my father's grave, heart & hand milagros, paperwhites, the scent of green tea. I know where they all are - I just have to scoop them up with both hands.

I know now that a year is not just a measurement of time - it is space in my soul & it is up to me to fill it. This year is more than full, and that is why a new one must take its place, nestling close to all those other years I have inside, not closed shut, but still open so that pieces from one year may spill over into the next or even the next. The past is there, still alive, still coloring the present, still offering advice, still giggling at the jokes I have stored away.

Maybe I will add giggles to this years wings.
First thing.

So for you - I wish you wings of your own. What will you use to make them? It is up to you, you know, you're not allowed to hire out the sewing & hammering services. You must pick up the needle & thread yourself, you must solve the problem of getting those moonbeams to stay put. How will you do that? What tricks will you use?

Where do you start?
with shadows? peppermints? frost on a windowpane?


A year off with pay - that's all I need

I sit in this child's chair & dry my hair.

I've had this image for 2 or 3 weeks - taken when my camera was acting crazy & not firing when I pressed the button a certain way - you know, down - but only when I pressed it kind of back into the camera body & then slightly down, and I was pretty aggravated & frustrated & all that stuff, and it didn't even matter that the exposures were way too long to be hand-held - I just wanted to figure out exactly how to press the shutter release button so that the silly camera would actually fire when I wanted it to. So when Robin got inspired by Tango & suddenly decided that the perfect way to finish out blogging for 2008 was with "happy accident" photos, I thought, well, hey, I've got tons of those. I'm in.

Apparently not. Turns out I actually use all those accidents - how revealing, huh? All those mistakes I remembered seeing - okay, not all of them, but bunches - were images I'd already posted. I'd already done something with them. And I'd tell you exactly which ones they are, but surely you already know, and if you don't, well, far be it from me to reveal such secrets. But there was this one, and even though it's not really a happy accident, it's an accident, so that counts, right? And this one says so much about me. How not a morning person I am - how I am always late, no matter how fast I go, how I hate for the phone to ring because, Lordy, Lordy, that means I will have to actually speak to someone (text messaging was invented by angels for me personally), how lately I never seem to get enough rest, even when I spend all day on the couch watching back-to-back episodes of House, how I am just plain frazzled. It makes me laugh, this double-everything in the image, this busy-ness, this sad little lonesome chair nestled against the wall waiting for me to just sit down & dry my hair. And as I write this, the phone rings.

Of course.


Living a 7 Calendar Life

I have a life full of calendars.

Which is funny, because I could live without clocks forever. Very Easy Rider of me. I suppose that means it's the little moments I don't mind, or that I find unnecessary to keep track of, but that can't be it, because I write those little moments down on those calendars, and at the end of the year, when I get new calendars, and I transfer birthday & anniversary information from the old ones, I am always quite taken by the small moments I have bothered to list. For instance, from 2008's DayPlanner, which, by the way, is always full of much more detail in January:

1/1/08: You are here. What now? (With pasted quote: "Scatter joy." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson) . . . spotted daytime raccoon. Year of the Trickster?

1/5/08 . . . possum in daylight this morning! Odd goings-on. 70 degrees & sunshine.

1/12/08 . . . took RBL's shutters down; out to the little house in back. Clearing out my creativity area! LOL!

2/2/08 . . . bought Artful Blogging. I want to do this so bad, but am scared.

2/22/08 . . . started my own art blog!! Terrified, excited, giddy. In response to panic attack. Up at 4:30 a.m.; 1 mg. lorazepam. Sicker by 6 a.m. - went to lab; 2 more mg. lorazepam.

2/24/08 . . . absolutely ILL re: my blog, but have sent out the address to everyone anyway.

3/3/08 . . . red sky woke me this a.m.

3/27/08 . . . 2nd anniversary of Lily's arrival

7/3/08 . . . 5 owls

7/4/08 . . . 3 owls, then 4 more this a.m.

7/5/08 . . . 5 owls this a.m.

There are also notes for my blog - ideas that would wake me at 2 a.m. & push at me to write them down. I'd lay there, trying to convince myself I'd remember that line the next morning, then eventually talk myself into turning on the lamp, grabbing a pen & just writing it down. There are notes on calendars here at work, notes in journals with dates, notes everywhere. Calendars everywhere. There is one on the wall here in front of me at work, and 2 new ones laying on the floor, waiting for that all-important transfer of information. If I were a restaurant, I'd be in good standing with William Least Heat Moon. From Blue Highways:

“There is one infallible way to find honest food at just prices in blue highway America: count the wall calendars in a café.
No calendar: Same as an interstate pit stop
One calendar: preprocessed food assembled in New Jersey
Two calendars: Only if fish trophies present
Three calendars: Can’t miss on the farm boy breakfasts
Four calendars: Try the ho-made pie, too.
Five calendars: Keep it under your hat, or they will franchise
One time I found a six calendar café in the Ozarks, which served fired chicken, peach pie, and chocolate malts, that left me searching for another ever since.
I’ve never seen a seven-calendar place.”

These calendars keep me filled in, keep me alert to those little things. I am pleased to go back & see how scared I was to let anyone I knew in on my blogging secret, but how I did it anyway. The stress of Maggie's sickness, the excitement of meeting Christy, the agony of buying the jeep, anxiety & panic episodes, are so vivid when written in that moment.

You journalers already know this.

One day at a time- this is enough. ~ Ida Scott Taylor.
today my hidden words are for all to see


A star with my fingerprints

What if we grew our own stars?

What if we watered them oh-so-carefully, tended them with our souls & our true, true hearts? Fed them with the wishes & dreams & desires & love & joy & wonder & amazement & magic & secrets we keep hidden from the world? What if we babied them, and covered them with soft white sheets against freezes & ice & too-cold air, what if we whispered to them enchantments & sweet nothings & sat with them for hours, reading poetry and singing lullabies? What if we planted them next to old, wise trees, who knew the ways of the earth, and had seen many, many moons pass overhead, had seen comets streak through nighttime skies, had watched the planets appear, disappear, then re-appear? What if those trees spoke to the fledgling stars, in the language all wild things share, telling them stories of lightning & wind? If they did, would the star babies politely listen, but giggle deep inside, for what is lightning compared to a star? Would they understand they were stars, destined to live in that sky, above the clouds & rainstorms & thunder? Would they know? Would there be a place for us to buy star seedlings, and would we know what kind of star we were caring for so faithfully? Oh, I hope not, I hope that final flight from the earth would surprise us, would take us unawares, that we would be resting after a warm afternoon of pulling weeds, enjoying the cool of the evening air and suddenly there would be a flash, & maybe a whoosh, & maybe a star scent left behind, & there it would go - flying above us, faster than we can even imagine, and then . . . then? Then there would be a new star in the heavens.

And our thumbprints would be on it.
It is the stars not known to science that I would know. ~ Thoreau


A magical Christmas

This sweet little cat sitting
under my Christmas tree is last year's Christmas card.
I don't know who took her picture,
but she looked like Lily
she looked like magic.

I believe she may have been.
It's been a magical year.

There have been owls & cardinals & pink sugar cookies,
trees with toppings of white frothy flowers
treasure hunts in the summer heat.
There have been hurricanes
talk of storms & dreams & shadows.
There have been losses,
and more on their way,
and wishes for more time,
but there has also been the true heart knowledge
that this is the way of the world.
There have been leaves in the wind,
robins in nests,
handprints of silver
the joys of the everyday sidewalk.

I will be busy tomorrow.
Gifts to be wrapped,
last minute magic for Christmas Eve.
Lots of blue paper & white ribbon,
chocolates & Christmas carols
dinner & dessert
& laughter with my family.
Then home.
perhaps an old movie on t.v.,
Maggie cuddling next to me on the couch.
Then later,
a neighborhood stroll
to admire the lights.

I say Merry Christmas to you all.
To you who have welcomed me
with arms open wider
than I could have ever
imagined or wished for.
My other family.
My companions on this journey.
sleep in heavenly peace


On being out-of-focus

My Christmas tree is up.

I didn't want to do it. I'd decided against it. I was too busy, too tired, we are "doing" Christmas at my mother's this year, no one would see it, I'd decorated the Emma Tree here at work, I didn't need one at home also. I would just have to turn around & take it down. Oh, I was full of excuses & reasons, all of which made perfect sense to my brain, but my heart still wanted it. My heart said go ahead, just a small one, don't make a fuss, you have those blue lights you bought a couple of months ago, you're so in love with Katie's blue staircase, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead. So I followed my heart. And oh! So glad I listened to it! It shoots circles of blue reflections around the room, like Ken Kesey on a good day. I like the out-of-focus feeling it gives me.

Julie felt like a watercolor last week, edges all blurred and runny, and her post made me realize how sharp I felt, and not in a good way. All sharp edges, I mean, and creases, and the sense of being folded tight for far too long. Ready to tear. By Saturday I was ready to feel truly & really out of focus. Floaty. The day began warm, worked its way into the 70s and then a blue norther (you can't make this stuff up) blew in & by early Saturday evening we were into the 30s, then 20s, then back into the low 30s, and we haven't warmed up yet. It's perfect weather for laying on the couch surrounded by this light, Christmas music in the background, or just silence. I slept most of yesterday afternoon.

It's been a long time coming.
oh & that makes me hear crosby, stills & nash & that makes me feel good


Blue light on leaves

Suddenly I knew.

Knew that this painting had been finished for quite a while, just waiting for me to understand that. It's a painting that came before the fact. It's been sitting there so patiently for a couple of months, waiting for the lovely lovely Katie to drape those blue Christmas lights around her staircase. waiting for me to walk outside with my camera and take pictures of that blue light against the leaves, waiting for me to walk back inside and suddenly see it for the first time. A true aha moment. A little unnerving, truth be told. I'd thought it was done, I loved the blue on the dried leaves, but still didn't get it. What a patient little piece of art, no doubt smiling as I'd go by & glance at it, feeling it needed nothing else, but not sure. It just sat there, biding its time, knowing it was a Christmas present, knowing I'd unwrap its mystery in due course. As I said, a little unnerving, a little spooky.

The silver sky is the color of the sky at night,
the moonlight through the clouds & fog.


Reds chase away last night's blues

I only took in my camera because I didn't want it to be stolen.

Usually I leave it in the car or at home, but I had it with me, and I had to park in the dark faraway spot in the fog, so I took it in with me. A Christmas concert. Nothing to compare with Robin's Christmas Tubas, but, as it turned out, quite wonderful. A drive through thick fog to a small town nearby, roads under construction, glow-in-the-dark traffic cones & barrels competing with the bright bright bright next door Baptist church sign to keep me blinded, unable to figure out where to turn in, where to park, where to go. Parking lots full to the brim, I was trying to turn around, figure out how to get out of the mess when, out of the darkness, like a guardian angel, who should appear but one of my brothers, who had already parked in that dark faraway place I mentioned earlier. Into my Jeep he climbed, to direct me onto a sidewalk & over a curb - me: "Are you sure I can do this?"; he, laughing: "You have the perfect vehicle for it". (It was actually fun & I'm planning on looking for more curbs to run over.) And then moving with the crowd into the school, first row seats saved by my incredible sister-in-law, and we were there just in time. As I said, Christmas carols. A French one, an African one, lots that I knew, some that I heard for the first time. Everyone in a good mood, chasing my grouchiness & blues away. Kids happy, parents happy & proud, babies in laps clapping to the music. More than worth the aggravation.

The woman pictured above thanked everyone for taking time out of their busy schedules to be there, to support these budding musicians - the same thing you hear at every school or sports event, but for the first time, I really heard it. I really got it. Because I am busy, because my brother is busy, my sister-in-law is busy, all those other parents & aunts & uncles & grandparents & friends & neighbors are busy, but they/we were all there. And happy about it. And I realized how much work the teachers do - how busy they, too, are - so I included her picture.

The fog was thicker when I left (indeed, it has stayed all day, and is lurking at the tops of buildings out there in the dark right now). I listened to An Nollaig all the way home.


Blue Night

Yes. More blue.

Last night I stood under these lights, which wind their way up the handrails of a spiral staircase,
arm in arm with the vines which also call these rails home.
It was past 11 & the moon was still close to full,
partially hidden behind clouds
bringing in today's mistiness & cold drizzles,
and I was enchanted.
It was another world.
The air was slightly warm, the wind outlining a cooler blueness,
a promise of today's cold air;
the lights dressing the holiday leaves.

What fun the creatures of the night must have during these times. Are the raccoons having parties on the stairs, bringing gifts tied with silvered leaf stems; are the opossums invited? The owls? The rats? Do they put aside their differences for a few hours & celebrate the coming of a New Year? Are toasts drunk from acorn caps filled with wine made from berries & honeysuckle? Do they post a sentinel to watch for the cats (who would surely never deign to attend)? I'm sure I've heard a warning signal in the wee hours of the morning and a scurry of feet back into hidey-holes. Do the squirrels break their routines & stay up late and join them? Oh, I hope so - I hope they are friends for a bit, I hope they have warm cozy homes to toddle off to, whispers & wishes to tell each as they nod into sleep. I wish them a Merry Christmas too.


Blue Christmas

I admit it.

I am glad autumn is almost over. I am glad winter is almost here. That means spring is right around the corner - albeit a long corner - and that means blues. Instead of reds & golds & oranges, which, as gorgeous & breathtaking as they are, I am just not good at. That's why I didn't really know we had such red, red trees here - I am always so busy in the fall & the temperature begins to drop & I just hurry from the inside of the house to my car & I've just not paid any attention until this year. Sad but true. This year, however, I noticed, and was just astounded. I'd only seen the ginkgos in their golden-overnight display - hard to miss - but I'd ignored all the other glorious trees, and only noticed the brown, brown, brown leaves on the ground. Head down against the wind, watching my feet as I scurried to the car. I am a bit ashamed. I apologize to all those trees for all those years of gifts I missed.

But still. I have missed my blues & lilacs & lavenders & hydrangeas & periwinkles & cannot wait for grape hyacinths & paperwhites to begin to bloom. In the meantime there is Christmas & blue lights & aqua bulbs & silver this & that.

There are birds to placed on trees & about the house.

Work begins to wind down & I have time to breathe. To dream. To shop, to buy presents and giftwrap & ribbon, and appreciate the Christmas displays all over town. Last weekend the lovely, lovely Katie and I swooped by a nighttime Christmas festival at Blue Moon Gardens. When Katie stepped onto a path surrounded on all sides by luminarias, she turned to me, smiling, and said, "I'm so happy!"

Yes. Me too.


December Views #5 + a secret revealed

At last I can reveal a secret!

Click right here & see what's coming.
I cannot stop smiling
that makes the rest of this long week quite bearable!



Angel of Mischief

And so it begins.
We move indoors.

The leaves have fallen,
branches are bare,
the sky is more powerful when we see it more clearly.

I have been thinking about angels lately. Not those Nicolas-Cage-come-to-Earth kind of angels, but the kind I see in my head when I listen to Christmas carols. Those Giotto kind of angels, the kind that look to be part of the sky itself, part of Heaven, just sliding out from between the clouds & blue paint. I find I am drawn (no pun intended) to the songs that paint those pictures in my head. I can just see those angels hovering in a dark sky over a manger somewhere, I can see a star in the background - all those things I was taught as a child come back, but now I think about the angels. I think about that night sky, the joyfulness of their flight. I wonder who they were.

Perhaps I'm inspired by this drawing of Emma's, made a few years ago - she was probably 7 or 8:

That angel there on the right.
The peeping-Tom angel.

What is she thinking? Is the excitement of it all just more than she can bear, and so she must take a peek? Was she told not to look? She's just so mischievous, and I have loved her dearly since the moment I first laid both of my eyes on her, and I stole her away from my mother's refrigerator door at the first opportunity. I am using her image on my Christmas cards - if I ever actually find the time to make them. The thinking about her has me thinking about angels in general, and truly, truly, I keep listening to those songs about that night and about the angels and the shepherds and the Magi, and it is seeping into the collage book I am still working on. We will see, but it feels like it is about the poetry of the night sky. And here I need to be silent, or I will give it all away.

No peeking.
can an angel lose her way?


Open House - December Views #2

Open House today for some brick street businesses near my house.

The top & bottom images are peeks inside the lovely lovely Katie's Body Language.
The star is courtesy of Silk Threads next door -
in their Garden Alley festival of lights & loveliness.


Pod People: December Views #1

Two are waving - can you see that?
With those little Hobbit looking caps?

I think the center one is laughing, head thrown back,
he has just heard something incredibly incredibly funny!
Or no, maybe it's a mama pod,
leaning forward,
baby on her back.
Or perhaps it's a basket on her back,
about to be filled with Christmas goodies.

And the bottom one?
Oh, an ice skater, don't you think?
About to turn away from us, or spin,
or do whatever it is ice skaters do.
He is gliding fast,
or maybe she is,
and joy is the music playing in the background.

Such happiness on this little tree.
I shall keep an eye on it.

(December Views? Look here!)


Lily & the Emma Tree

Looks like trouble.

I managed to finally get Miss Emma Tree decked out for Christmas & walked in on this little tableau when I showed up this morning. :)

I am busy, busy, busy this week - printing Christmas cards & pictures for everyone but me. I may send out New Year's cards to family & friends this season. And while I would like to pretend that I can make it through this month by posting only pictures - a wonderful, wonderful idea (see Darlene's December Views here & Jaime here), I know I cannot. But this week?


With maybe a word or two here and there.
thank God for Eileen Ivers or I would be stark raving mad!