“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


this is not where i beg you to tell me it's all right

it's not.
this is where i talk about influence and when it's more than just that.  

i painted this weekend.  a big canvas.  that's it up above with the child's chair i sat it while lost in the brushstrokes.  i turned the tv to disaster movies, a marathon of silliness i could tune out, and i opened the front door to the sunshine, and i painted.  under the black and white are the beginnings of another piece, four women i painted over, a just-not-working painting that i will try again later on another piece of canvas.  the black and whites were the first stages in this painting, and the flower was just for me, something to remind me where this painting was supposed to be headed, something to disappear into the background a bit when complete.  i've had the image in my head for a couple of weeks, i'd drawn a couple of 2 minute sketches just to keep me oriented, the way i always work.  i never have the finished piece figured out.  it's much the same way i write.

and then today i saw bridgette's newest encaustic piece, and i knew where all the inspiration and influence for my painting had come from.  this is not the first time it has happened with bridgette - she is one of my all time favorite artists, and i'm sure that's because her work resonates with me on a such a gut level.  not an excuse, but a reason.  she and i have had this discussion before, with a small piece that was not such a copycat, but still made me uncomfortable.  this big one makes me very uncomfortable.  it will change.  i already know the direction it will take while still holding my original thoughts close.  i messaged bridgette and told her about this, told her i wasn't sure if i would even post this image, then decided i would.  decided i would talk about it once again - that invisible line where influence becomes copycatting or plagiarism.  but i don't know what to say.  this is obviously one of those times when the line has been crossed; so often it is less hard to tell.  but that said, this weekend i saw an image on pinterest, and sure it was one of maddie's, backtracked it to flickr, only to find that it wasn't.  surprised to find it wasn't - it was that similar, all the way down to the ocean in the background.  it, too, had crossed the line.

photography is hard to hold onto - it is easy for someone to imitate someone else.  so easy to use the same textures, subjects, colors.  it is especially easy when someone is learning their craft.  find someone you like, follow them, absorb them.  there is nothing wrong with that.  it only becomes wrong when you stop there, when you don't follow yourself all the way out.

painting and writing are easier to keep close.  a painting should obviously be yours.  or mine.  i can learn your technique, you can learn mine, and we should not be afraid to share our knowledge; we should understand that we will use that technique to further our own work.  we should follow ourselves all the way out.  writing is the easiest to protect, perhaps - if someone takes our words, even a sentence, even a phrase, it is plagiarism, easy to prove, and that person should be ashamed.  if someone tries to write like us, to imitate us . . . well, that's tough.  i don't think that's easy.  writing is not a digital process.  we always follow ourselves all the way out.

in my message to bridgette, i told her i was glad to've seen her new piece today - and by the way, you'll never convince me that wasn't a bit of serendipity.  seeing her piece when i did made me push myself away from the canvas and take a breath.  i told her when i'd painted over her influence, it would still be there, but in heart only.

what say you? when is influence no longer influence, but imitation?



week 4. january. notta lotta.

i opened my camera and shook out the leftovers.
images of rain and soft moons and tree limbs naked against the night sky,
the not quite perfects,
the out of focuses,
true illustrations of my life. 
my calendar of days.
wednesday morning, i stood in the doorway and took pictures of the rain
and the across the street falling-down house that once was mary's,
watched the creek not rise, breathed a long sigh of relief. 
thursday night, the cat stopped on the sidewalk,
stood skygazing through the branches of the pear tree,
and there was the moon hanging low overhead, rain clouds long gone;
i took hand held long exposures and the images bath the sky with milky moonlight.  

january, week 4. twenty twelve.



pinterest, the truth, and nothing but the truth, slightly hidden

i noticed within days that i was choosing images of escape.  gypsy caravans.  rooms that my teenage self would have loved, pillows scattered across the floor.  color.  as imperfect as my real life is, i was choosing even more imperfection.  i was choosing leaving.  i began an imaginary trip, images of stars overhead, makeshift tents in the backs of pickups.  one day here, the next there.  i began to choose rooms unlike the rooms i'd torn from the pages of magazines and saved over the years, all white and spacious; those old ideas suddenly seemed . . . controlled.  suddenly untamed seemed like a better place to live.

i like pretty. i knew that.  i like impractical shoes with bows and high heels.  i like boots and i like things in a certain teal pale aqua color fading into green.  i like girly twirly skirts.  i knew all that also.  i like kittens and cupcakes and polka dots and hands and i like breaking the rules.  i have blue and white boxes overflowing with pictures torn from magazines, files filled with flowers and images of birds, snippets of colors, rooms of white, fields of green, the ocean, the stars, the perfectest of views from the perfectest of porches.  quotes and recipes and moon shaped cookies.  and yet . . .

i began to choose images of half told stories, of secrets.  if i wasn't tired, i wrote the story in a sentence or two.  this coat, i said, looks like the night before christmas.  an old blue door told me the tale of the woman who lived behind it and when i said the birds came to visit, i knew i was writing about me.  one night, in frustration at my fear of travel, i deleted my imaginary trip.

pinterest rorschach.

that's what i told kelly i called it,
when she said you could tell a lot about people by the images they pinned.
i said you can tell a lot about yourself also,
and i'll tell if you will.


i like the presence of life.
just a hint is all i need.
a string of fairy lights across an empty wall says woman.
snow piled on a swing says child.
i like to fill in the blanks. 

presence of life.
a bird on a hand.
a fat cushion on a chair.
a jump into air, arms outstretched.
a barren tree holding the moon.
spring will come.

other people's pictures, all.  

the small story each image tells becomes part of my story.
the one that says i can still surprise myself,
that i still have secrets to be discovered.
i never want to know all the answers.
i am making a map.
i am traveling.


kelly's pinterest tale is here.

you can find me on pinterest here.



when deb's away . . .

. . . i talk about play.

i'm at deb's place today,
while she continues a month long birthday celebration.
cause that's the way she does things.
how can you not love a woman like that?

follow me over.  c'mon.
i'll show you the way.
it's right here.



growing pains

the doldrums descend.
the january flounders.
my right arm and shoulder ache nonstop,
all those words unwritten knotted tangled tight against each other.
i wake in the night and turn to my other side,
my body feeling the need to fly.
i take 2 tylenol come morning.




the best thing about cellphones is they see things we don't.  there's no blue on this wall, it's just the phone's way of seeing shadows, and so there i be, kicking back under the emma tree in yesterday's late afternoon, and beginning the journey back to this photo series.  i can see right away i have turned a page with this new phone, the old one dead and gone to heaven, and i am not sure how i feel about it, chchchchchanges and everything not being my strong point.  this new phone is an iphone, an old one, the 3gs, but it was 97¢ and what the hell.  and i like it, i do, but so far not so much the camera.  i take almost no images with it; it requires 2 hands to operate, so spontaneity can be dangerous, and the images are better and have lost that ragged look i liked so much.  and i don't do apps.

but.  the calendar says january and january means begin again and so a new chapter.  first boot shot under the emma tree lights mixed with daylight and the shadows go blue.  things could be worse.  i liked it enough to not desaturate it too much.


the weekend opens its eyes onto gray skies and a squirrel upside down in the wisteria vines.  breakfast is the last of the homemade soup.  i am awake in a bad mood, skye cat meowing in my face too early too much; when i squeezed her tight to show how much i loved her despite all the noise, she bit me, just a small scrape of a tooth across my arm, but a lesson learned about love and holding on too tightly.  there is much to do and i am dithering about the day.

a morning flock of birds.
they are writing words in the sky,
messages visible only to those above them.
for us earthbound souls, mirrors are required,
or guesses.



top gun

birds swaggering into the january sky,
cowboys with wings.
the jingle jangle of their spurs keeps the cat inside.



such a small life. without pictures.

just us two and a slow afternoon, an unexpected half day off.  the best kind.  gray clouds soft in the warm sky, the world on mute.  homemade soup in white bowls.  for dessert, a book read aloud.  leaves blowing across the lawn, inside the house matching outside the house, faded colors, soft, soft, warm, safe.  the cat a sleeping circle of gray and black on the white bed, silence, silence, just my voice and someone else's words in the air.  the ticking of the clock when i pause.  by 4:15 he is gone and it is just the cat and me, and a moment of late afternoon sunlight, the sun behind the house.

there is a small room between my bedroom and the bathroom that i use as a library and i spent the weekend clearing space there, tossing books and papers, dusting shelves that haven't been dusted in a year, washing antique linens. the kind of cleaning only you know you've done.  the kind of cleaning that opens something in your soul.  that lets you breathe easier.  a white candle on a now empty spot of shelf.  i tossed books saved since high school, books i never re-opened, never planned on reading again, art books from college days that no longer interested me - deconstructivism, vasari - but i kept giotto's angels; i kept dylan thomas and richard farina and shakespeare and joseph conrad.  william hawkins, a roll of nickels.  i tossed the pms workbook, books about perimenopause and gluten free diets and how to know when a lump is more than lump.  i tossed the words that held memories of fears, real and imagined, and i kept the words that fed me.

patches of pale blue find space in the sky between the clouds, now gray and white.  the church steeple a couple of blocks away is a silhouette against the almost end of the day.  if i turned on the tv, there would be news.  the shadow on the teal chair grows stronger, the lamp glows more golden, and the cat has moved to the back of the couch.




you can tell a lot about the way i stand just by walking into my house.  these unzippered lazy leaning boots sit right inside the doorway where i stop to shimmy my feet down to socks or bare feet - a gift left me by my mother, a gift that says shoes in the house make no sense, a gift that says get comfy, sprawl across the couch, you are home.  cleaning her back porch last fall i found a pair of tennis shoes where she'd kicked them off, under a table; after all those months gone, she made me smile.

“Where you are is who you are.
The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. 
Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.” 
                                                                                         ~~~~~ Frances Mayes / Under the Tuscan Sun

last year was the year of the house.  for me, my mother's house.  i now know she understands my decision to not make it my home; in the same way her cat will never be mine, my mother's house would never be mine.  the floors echo with her footsteps, not mine.  i tried.  i made plans.  i pretended out loud and on paper.  but no was always the word i heard when i stepped inside the door.

home stayed here.  in this house with too low ceilings.  in this house that floods now and again.  in this house whose hall closet has no ceiling, the better for the squirrels to get inside.  in this house.  on this street.  here for now, here for a while.  i still long for my real home, wherever it may be, somewhere outside the city limit signs, but the time to go has not yet arrived.


2012 is the year of home.
where do you feel most at home?

from graciel:
Not long ago, a question was posed to me~ where do you feel most at home
I could not answer and the not answering squeezed my heart.
 I realized my sense of home was shaky at best,
and in that realization deeper explanations could be found.

she set out to find an answer and discovered " . . .  it was time to honor all aspects of home; my body as first home, my dwelling as second, the earth as third. In honoring that trinity I would finally and irrevocably come home to myself. And being at home with myself would transform my life."  and thus an online course (and one day retreat) was born.

i am more than honored to be one of the instructors, and hope you'll join us. 
details are here.


birds in trees

wintertime trees stitched to the morning sky.
these birds are long gone by now, the south at last calling them farther home.
they have been playing musical chairs with the wind.



proof of life

raindrops and buds on the cherry laurel tree yesterday morning.
this is where it starts.

she knows.

soon this tree will be dropping blossoms onto the sidewalk,
and this is the thing,
look how happy it is even now.
this spring it will be drenched in white flowers
but it is cheerful in its nakedness,
embracing its emptiness.

smarter than me.

it knows to everything there is a season
and frets not.
the good stuff needs roots and time and sunshine
and rain.
it needs blue skies and gray.

this morning begins with a sky of blue.  when the tv weatherman said tomorrow would be 20 degrees cooler, i sighed, i huffed and puffed and complained to myself than i would have to do laundry tonight, would have to wash socks, would have to bundle up, would have to this and that, and i just generally got all tight in mental preparation. january be damned, i wanted it to stay warm.  i forgot what the cherry laurel knows.


i'm sure that tree giggles at me every time i pass beneath its branches.



yesterday's story, and everyday

the rain kept waking me night before last,
unsteady on its feet,
smacking hard against the air conditioner and then
pounding on the windows and then
it was still here come evening;
the sky milky with lavenderpinkwhite clouds,
behind which they say there was a moon.

end of the workday.  i sling the tote bag onto the passenger seat, settle the phone into a cup holder, nestle the camera secure, turn the key, engine on, doors closed and locked, seatbelt, lights, adjust the air/heat, and then breathe.  this is my time for stillness, not long, breath in, slow breath out, always, always, this wall a meditation in early darkness rain or 8 pm sunlight heat, a line separating day from night.

the only christmas lights still standing are white
across downtown rooftops,
and the odd tree here and there on the road home.



january now and then

if you catch them just right,
if you are up early enough on a slightly foggy morning,
they look like snow against the branches.  

the tulip tree lives on the far left side of the yard, the west, and it begins our calendar.  january.  baby buds.  i thought of them in a dream in the other night, awoke wondering if last summer's drought had delayed their coming, but no.  they are where they should be.  i like to think they whispered to me in my sleep as they opened their eyes, a bit of reassurance, we are back, all is well, the world still moving in seasons and everyday rhythms, soothing predictability.

this week's story: happy birds.  a hawk, two days in the sweet gum tree across the street, and cardinals.  yesterday morning, birdsong and even more cardinals, climbing the empty wisteria vines, flittering into the hackberry.  sparrows.  the smell of the sweet olive tree finding its way through the front door, skye cat hiding around the corner, chattering at the birds, so unaware as they breakfast on the lawn.  they dive and swoop into the creek, where the water lives, bursting upwards in a surprise of feathers.  it will sound like a fish story when i try to explain how big the woodpecker was, this big, i will say, and hold out my hands to show you, and this big around, truly.  you will laugh and say pictures, please, but trust me.  he was that big.


a year ago today a snowstorm was on its way, but i was on the road to florida.  i stopped in louisiana for the night, and the news was full of heartbreak from arizona, land of my youth, land of deserts and my heart.  my fears suddenly felt small, but even larger.  i called my mother and the ever-wonderful michael and settled in for the night, on the road again the next morning, still headed east, still headed out.  

she gave me the ocean again.
it had been a long time.

tell us about a time this year
that you were moved by the generosity of another.

reverb 11.  late.


generous souls i know.
there were so many in this hardest of years.
i will choose a january soul, before the hard time hit.

beth got lost in the shuffle,
got lost in the bigger story of my mother's death so soon after.
had bad timing, or good, i can't truthfully say,
but she believed in my courage when i didn't,
and she offered a few days of the ocean.
a temptress to whom i said yes.
when i thought i was lost, she asked if i had a map.

that water was an old lost friend,
never mind the cold.
she offered patience and understanding and open arms
and tea and new friends.
i listened to under the tuscan sun on the drive down
and all the way back home.



table broke - now i can see the truth. without pictures.

against the blue of this morning's sky, a squirrel's silhouette tightropes the telephone wire and i begin to write.  i mistype that as rite and almost leave it, a perfect truth disguised as mistake.  namaste twenty twelve.  january 4th.  a small day begins.

no leaves block my view.  another squirrel's shadow circles the trunk of an oak tree across the street.  a small bird drops onto a limb of the hackberry, in perfect time with one last small falling leaf.  it is dull out there, and quiet, all faded greens and the gray of a sweatshirt as a student heads off to school.  chilly with sunshine, i think, and laugh, thinking chili with sunshine sounds like something i would eat with a spoon and a smile.   


true story:  the new year began with a broken table leg, said table still upside down on the living room floor, still healing, but ready to be righted.  when it broke and i couldn't fix it, when it proved to be beyond my skills and tools and strength, when i could see what needed to be done but couldn't do it, i fell to tears and swearing, though neither helped.  there was a moment when i tried to drag the thing through the front door, sick of it, tired of the poorness it represented, but it fought back, wanting to stay - it grew too heavy and one of the good legs caught in the doorway and i just finally stopped and let it be.  swept around it and let it be.  accepted i would need help. accepted i would have to wait.  exhausted, i finally took a nap  - skye cat crawled up into the bed with me, laid her head on my shoulder and fell asleep.

a life lesson.
a recap of last year.
sometimes you have no control.

break a leg.