Mid-Summer Swinging

O will you lay with me
Beneath a shady tree,
On a ship we’ll set a sail
Row out to meet a whale,
Under the clear bright skies
We’ll swing and shut our eyes,
O will you come with me
Out to the apple tree.

summer days in the garden . . . the bales of straw we so cleverly laid out on pathways in the garden have kept the weeds down, however, they have also sprouted! What a chortle!

the beds are giving chard and peas,
hairy motherwort, nuzzling bees,
the ‘new’ garden flower
blooms magenta hour after hour,
ladybirds spotted inside the fold
sit dark red on yellow quietly bold

down the driveway the old mulberry tree fallen over long ago has rejuvenated and sprouted shoots, with a bit of pruning and clearing of thorny thicket we climb around and upon the gnarled intertwined trunk . . . in crevices where bark has decayed there’s plants sprouting and down low from out of cracks, mushrooms climbing; what a tree, majestic is she!! . . . we enjoy fruit and shade at her side where she does abide with a bramble left behind her where rabbits reside . . .

this solstice we gathered and celebrated mulberry, hummingbird, hollyhocks, and daily lilies, simple pleasures with daylong arms and firefly nights.

Odes to Nature

About a month ago I went to the opening of my first solo art show on Friday the 5th at The Blue Phoenix Cafe.  Downtown galleries open their doors till about 8:30 every first Friday of the month, celebrating the opening evening of new exhibits and the streets are busy with people getting together, chittering and chattering, around paintings, wine, cheese, fruit, and in the case of The Blue Phoenix, superb vegetarian fare like sushi, brown rice burgers, and hummus.

My show was a mixture of media: seven framed Giclee prints of creations made with leaves, berries, fungus, and other treasures that I find and look for on walkabouts here in the woods, and eight paintings in a mixture of watercolor, collage, and india ink. I called the show Odes to Nature & Other Wise and in spending the evening chatting with friends, family, acquaintances old and new I learned a little something that was at once obvious in retrospect yet also immediately surprising.

Specifically in conversation with a local acquaintance, he brought to my attention that my work reminded him of South Indian Folk Art, the eyes, the feeling, the expressions. And this was the pivotal point in turning my view, for while I know nothing about South Indian Folk Art, what immediately came to mind was this: when I first set out to discovering who they are, the seven earth ladies, initially my aunts came to the forefront as the heroines of the tales shown. From there the wives of Chandra, the Moon God: Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Ardra, Anuradha, Revati, Chittra, Svati, and so on. I followed my instincts and kept going until haiku’s bespoke their personalities.

Now, this is where it got interesting, as I was ruminating on the South Indian Folk Art discussion, at first I thought perhaps he was picking up on the names and possible identities that had been swirling around in my head earlier but suddenly it came together:: an aha! a hand to the forehead moment! this realization:: I know South Indian Folk. How had I missed what was right under my nose? My maternal grandfather and many of his relatives migrated to Pakistan from South India, mainly Madras and Bangalore, during Partition, and the women of his family all are infused with this ‘look’ that I grew up around. In migrating, they carried over their South Indian style of dressing and talking and eating and doing things to Karachi: a mixed city of mostly migrants from places like Lucknow, Allahabad, Gujrat, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kashmir, and other flavors subcontinental.

The women wear kajal around their eyes, flowers in their hair, and are themselves living art. And they have woven their way into how I shaped this earthy series, which are odes to nature:: both of the earthly green kind and also the nature of the women who spun me round; giving me paint, pastel, dupattas, saris, and bangles to play with while they chatted, walking me home on scorching dusty streets from school when the cost of a rickshaw was too high yet turning the whole walk into such fun that it was how I wanted to go home instead of in a rickshaw, sharing gol gappas, jalebis, and faludas in the busy bazaars with sugar cane juice and falsaas, and then the conversations they’d have with the street folk, also folk art of their own kind, from hijras to one armed men on trolleys to displaced Afghan boys and girls selling marigold garlands, these women folk with heart have appeared in my art . . .

. . . as to South Indian or Not Indian or What’s Indian, does it matter? Maybe I’ll ask the hatter, in the meantime see whether you see the resemblance, which in the end is not localized to or about them in particular, but certainly a fusion of the women I’ve known. Women from many places, directions, times, walks of life, women from myth, fairy tale, legends, dreams; women come together infused, as revealed in community, with a mixed media South Indian Folksy flair.

I have prints available from this series at my Studio.

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Some like it hot

 

It’s heating up quickly here in the Blue Ridges; showing in the garden where peas and lettuce, in past years their pods swelling with sweetness, leaves juicy and fresh at this juncture, are already beginning to bolt.  We’ve had downpours, lots of rain all at one time, deluged with water after a dry warmish winter with next to no snow.  Mixed up into this are mood swings, from warm to cold to warm to hot to cold and wet to hot, fluctuating differently than comfortable predictable patterns.  Which asks the question,  to ponder ponderously the preponderous until it’s preposterous?  Or the other question comes a calling with fish in tow:: how then to fluctuate with the flow, swim with the current, surf the wave?

We’ll  be popping in tomatoes and cucumbers along those pea trellises, they love the heat in which they grow and thrive rather than bolt away, sow beans and squashes;  water in the evenings followed by rain dance . . . which requires mortar, pestle, shells, and firefly’s . . . wait and see what happens . . .  could be ‘the’ year for heat loving plants rather than cool season ones in these mountains for a change.

The cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower are under cover, cloaked in stealth away from the sight of those agents, those cabbage butterflies, so white and dainty, yet devastating once they get to setting eggs that hatch green camouflaged caterpillars that creep and crawl and devour the leaves, leaving behind dainty green lace.  The row cover also gives them a bit of a buffer from the heat, keeps more moisture in as well, so we’re hoping to enjoy them and who knows, the peas may yet get to springing up.

In the meantime, there’s quiches with eggs from the hens and asparagus, nettles, lambs quarters, mint tea, and best of all, though the driveway was flooded and battered, a little stirred and partially fried:: twas nothing a few boys with shovels couldn’t patty cake patch back into ship shape, dare I say, better than before 🙂

Repurposing:: cookbook into paintbook

Making an art journal with a very old, much loved and used cookbook starts with one cookbook that has well-stitched pages and a tub of glue::I use mod podge and glue three pages together, then three more, then another three and leave them open to dry before moving on to the next lot.  Before gluing, I’ll tear out pages then go to the corresponding side and tear out the set that’s on that side of the stitchery, thinning the book this way as it tends to get bulky with time and collaging.  I like to get all my pages glued before beginning arting in books, but it’s not necessary and I know folks who glue as they go along instead.  I work on our dining table, which I keep covered with an old shower curtain.

After the glued pages are dry, I paint two pages at a time with white acrylic gesso, let them dry, then go through about six sets worth to start out.  Then I get to the fun parts::moving color around the pages, usually Jasper paints with me and we get some interesting undergrounds done together 🙂

 

Later I’ll go through them and pull designs out of the swirls, collage, or draw over them.

They sit like this until one day inspiration, energy, and time all come together, then I pull out the paintbook and begin adding in details, turning something of the above over into the below.

Make a paintbook and give it some color, it’s a whole juicy flow to painting your story . . .  . cookbook, picture book, board book, composition book, your kids old notebooks; any book is repurposeable once it’s lived it’s original/intended purpose, the one thing to look for is firm good quality paper and sturdy stitched bindings, then go, glue, paint, give a book new life and flow!  When finished give it a cover of your own to show 🙂

Springing Along

 

Lilac has perfumed the air and blossomed; the wind and rain have blown away spent blooms but not before we gathered flowers to infuse in a syrup that’s handy to soak pound cake with, drizzle over pancakes, or add a splash to lemonade later in the year, a reminder of lovely lilac days.  Spring is moving along fast.  Knotweed, garlic mustard, and burdock are all big and past their tender tasty prime.  Lambs quarters are popping up with milkweed shoots, asparagus is on its way to ferning, and we’re on our hands and knees turning over wormy dirt where cabbages, broccoli, chard, kale, and lettuce are being given homes.  The roses have begun budding and yellow jackets are buzzing around looking for a spot to make their nests. Little Leif has come and gone.  He spent many a day away from his desert home in these lush mountains, waking to the sound of Lordly Cock crowing, popping out to gather eggs.  He’d put things down on the grasses, where they would disappear from sight, swallowed by the tall greenery  . . . . and oh, his expression, then the search!  Fingers parting the swathes, peeking, crawling nose to ground, looking for his marbles!

 

 

Too quickly the days are passing, one day to the next, one week to another, year to year; again we’re doing a garden, and though gardens are being done yearly, they’re never the same, giving what’s given to them . . .  piquing curiousity, for in a garden is made visible the fluctuations all around.  Even while the earth feels sure beneath the feet and hands it is turning turning and we with it, pulling cinquefoil here leaving it there, choices being made moment to moment, peas or dock?  Is there room for both?  Where to make the cuts with chicory and evening primrose, both beloved by bees and butterflies so beautiful, yet they’ll outgrow and crowd out chard and swallow the basil; choices choices that shape a patchwork crazy quilt that shows fully its story later, as the days and weeks and months keep turning.

Today under the row covers we found ditches formed by the downpour a few days ago, a rain so hard it flooded the driveway, making it un-driveable until early evening.  Surely it would have remained flooded, three creeks instead of one, had the leaves, logs, and branches not been moved out where they were damming up the flow, sending water bursting through the banks, frothing and rushing downstream into the big river at the bottom of the mountain, which in turn flooded out through porches and swing sets onto the road.  Though the driveway’s cleared, it’s scarred and marked, rutted by the passage of water eroding the earth; here and there are sand and gravel islands.

When I drive it, I’m reminded of the Karachi roads where I learned to drive; zig zag zoo, together up together down, around a pothole here, a mountain of a speedbump there, another ditch and groove, year round bump and go dirt roads . . . . though I’ve heard tell in the years between now and then those roads remain only in my memory, having been smoothed out and paved by machinery and advancements in that land; ironic that I live on a country road in an already advanced country that rivals those roads now!  Turn turn churn, East to West, West to East, sometimes it feels like we’re all wildly whirling in opposite directions from where we originate, thus shifting and moving this to that and that to this, eroding being eroded replenished absorbed reshaping where we are based on where we’ve been in a musical chairs medley until Haughty Heron flies overhead and lands on a swaying branch, peers down his long long nose and says, Hmm, I’ve seen this all before, now where are the fish?  Corn Woman grins at him in response.

 

Pieces of Peace

 

When I participated in the World Peace Poet Project I hadn’t imagined I’d receive so many variations of poetry on the topic of peace and resistance, it was an eye opener and enjoyed by my entire family . . . the excitement of walking down to the mailbox to see whether any postcards had come, seeing what each one looked like, reading them aloud, discussing them, reading them aloud again, and in Layla’s case:: the joy of new stamps to add to her album.  It was a fun experience and somewhere in the middle I was inspired to paint a series depicting some of the themes that popped out and so it continued, a surprising turn from poetry to paint.  Above are the beginnings of the series and below are the ones I’ve decided are the pieces of peace that are ‘finished’ for the time being  . . .  maybe they’ll rest a spell 😉