A couple of summers ago the Blazing Stars blazed brightly at Illinois Beach State Park. They made a spectacular show, and I’m so glad I was there to witness it. My soul is happiest when I am able to drink deeply of the beauty I find in one special place, and it has been amazing to see what nature has offered up for me over the past, er, several years. I’ve seen wonders, such as the time the Dead River blew out it’s sand bar, creating sine waves far out into Lake Michigan. Some years one plant is ascendant, other years it might be rare turtles. What a great journey!
I see my life as a quiet one, hunkered down in one spot, learning to see it deeply, celebrating it in paint. Pursuing my career pushes me out into the wider world, however. This doesn’t come easily…I read the business books and quail at the advice. Mailing list? Newsletter? EEK! What I have found is that I can fold my career right into my life until it is a natural extension of myself. Focus, and do the next thing. The next step always appears, as if by magic. It has also become an interesting journey. Most recently, it has led to my being invited to take this painting to the Racine Art Museum to be part of their rental and sales program. I’m so excited!
This seems like a good morning to look back, while I wait for the snow to melt and for things to green up. And other things to start flying around and biting (sigh) :)
Fifty years ago the Lake County Forest Preserve District voted to preserve a green corridor along the Des Plaines River. It would run from the Wisconsin border all the way through the county to the bordering county to the south. I have just read that the last piece has been purchased now, and nearly all of the trail has been completed. An incredible array of habitats have been preserved, rich in biodiversity. It took a great deal of thinking ahead, and nurturing of relationships with landowners along the way.
This painting isn’t that old, but I did paint it some years ago. It still stands as one of my favorites. I have seen wonderful things in my walks along the Des Plaines River Trail, among them these wonderful old Shagbark Hickory trees watching out over the river. I love their gnarly look and their peeling bark. They were one of the first trees I “met” when I became involved with ecological restoration many years ago. When I see one I am swept back to those exciting days when learning leapt out of the classroom and into the field, and I met people who shared my passion.
The dress is white and gold.
Or at least, I was pretty sure of it. Last night my son and I were bantering about the silly things we find online, and that dress was one of the things we were chuckling about. He brought up the image, and it was clearly white and gold. He looked at me oddly, and said, “blue and black.” We looked warily at each other and then showed it to his dad and sister. “White and gold” said my daughter. “Blue and black” said their dad. The four of us stared at the dress and each other, mystified. In our house at least, it seems to come down to male vs. female eyes. This morning I saw a photo of the dress and it was blue and black. What goes on here? To see for yourself, here is a link:
This is a triviality, except it made me question what I take for reality. What any of us take for reality. Then this morning when I was photographing this painting to share with you, there it was again. The painting has a lot of purple in it. My camera, however, insists that it is blue. I tried taking the photograph in different rooms, different lighting, different settings, no matter. Blue. Also, the camera has sort of compressed the image so the proportions don’t look right. I am putting all of this down to the questionable magic of digital media. Or perhaps I’ve lost my marbles…
In any event, here she is, fresh off the easel. Last summer on a gorgeous warm day, she graciously took pity on me and my inadequate photographing skills and posed on the remains of a train trestle that whispers of past human activity there, in the dunes at Illinois Beach State Park. The photograph I took in the field has lots of noise in it which I would ordinarily have translated on the canvas, depicting habitat. This time I was after something more dramatic, pared down. I haven’t done this before, but I think I like it. Or maybe the dress is blue and black….
Do you remember the first time you encountered a hawk? I do. DDT had just about wiped out our birds of prey so the world I emerged into was quieter than it should have been. My family and I moved to a rural corner of northern Illinois in 1974. On the one hand, it was grand~great stretches of open land were available for exploration. I had woods, fields and wetlands to play in. But even as a kid I could tell that something was wrong. There were a lot of thorns, a few big old oaks, a lot of one kind of grass, and no flowers to speak of. Still, I loved it all. And so it was out there in the field when I first heard that cry that stopped me in my tracks and lifted my eyes…a Red-tailed Hawk! Wow! How exciting. With DDT not used (here) anymore, their numbers have rebounded. Nature rewove a strand into her fabric, right before my eyes. Talk about wonder.
I’m still thrilled when I see one. I was hiking up along a ridge last fall when this one dropped right in front of me. I think he missed his mouse, but he paused long enough to allow me to admire him. Happy sigh.
Have you ever thought about following that tug at your sleeve, that dream that whispers in your ear? If so, you are in for a treat with this book. One day while poking about here in WordPress-land, I came across Ms. Riordan’s site. She is gracious and witty, and this is reflected in her book. I would love for her to be widely read, because she elevates the art of writing fiction. It would be refreshing to find more books like this on the shelves~intelligent, deeply felt, well-crafted. Enjoy!
One of the coolest things about Illinois Beach State Park is the incredible array of plant species it boasts. I am fascinated by the different forms that plants can take, and thought a series of pen and ink drawings would serve to highlight that. Here is my most recent drawing, of Prickly Pear Cactus. It likes the dunes.
Every single time I set out to draw a plant, even one I think I know well, I learn something about it. For example, all Prickly Pears are not the same. There are 2 species growing here, although this is the only one I’ve come across. A friend of mine, a botanist, told me that in one of her botany courses the students were told to go out and find a plant to draw every week through the season. “You know”, she said, “I’ll never not recognize that plant, regardless of season, after that.” Drawing forces us to keep looking until we see.
When I started writing a blog, it was with trepidation. That is probably true for most of us. Over time, though, I have met all of you, and you have come to mean so much to me. I want you to know that when I dance into my studio every day, you come with me. We are in good company, too. We have Barbra Streisand, in there, and U2 and Bach. :)
Yesterday I scrubbed out a garden painting that was resisting me, and decided to play with snow instead. So this little painting was born. I started out with very dark green, and purple, and blue. Then the fun started, with splatters of white that I let drip down the canvas, right into the wet dark paint. This morning I returned to paint in some limbs, and finally the wind chime. This wind chime is one of my very favorite things in the world. It is a big one, with deep chords. It is murmuring to me right now, keeping me up to date on how things are going out there.
Thank you for coming to play with me!