Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wonder-Full Wednesday

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

     ~George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer's Here!

First Fruits of the Season
The peas are fattening, the mulberries are ripening -- it's the second week of summer and already I feel as though it's nearly over!

I've yet to set up the hammock in a shady spot and haul out a comic book or two for some summer vacation reading. I still have to tie the cushions on the patio chairs, and throw the faded cloth over the bistro table. I must set the jar of sun tea out to strengthen in the heat of the front step. I need to bring down the iced tea glasses -- the ones with the ripe-cherries-and-checkerboard pattern -- from their top shelf. I must remember to clip a daylily and stick it in the Coke-bottle vase for the center of the table.... And for heaven's sake! What am I saving all those brand-new bottles of Bubble Stuff for?? I must get the Grandbug over here so the two of us can spill it all over ourselves in our attempts to create the world's biggest backyard bubble, one that will bring Glinda the Good Witch here to Tumbledown!

Holy cow, I'm a little behind on all the play....

So here's this week's mantra, everyone: Summer doesn't wait, but housework does. Let's leave it and enjoy the sun!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekend Eve Musings

A fat-'n-happy monarch caterpillar
Magic lives here at Tumbledown 24/7, and it greets me every morning, as if it's danced the night away impatiently waiting for me to wake.

Yesterday morning when I threw the upstairs window open to the cool moist air and pressed my face to the screen to breathe in the scent of rain, I was greeted by a red-headed woodpecker family squabbling noisily over the suet feeder and the sight of a succulent fairy ring circling a rather proud (and slightly obscene!) stinkhorn mushroom. The ring had sprung up overnight and seemed very Solstice/Midsommer appropriate, and I could only imagine what the fairies got up to while I slept....

As I enjoyed my morning coffee, I did some online research -- how to raise Monarch caterpillars in the classroom, how to control earwig infestations and eradicate weevils on stands of milkweed, how to use an organic pesticide called Safer's Endall -- all interesting stuff that threatened to suck my time away, but then the doorbell rang to startle me out of my reverie: just the mailman with a brown paper package for James (what could it be??, fan mail from some flounder?, oh the suspense!). I signed for it, then practiced playing 'Molly Hare' on the banjo a bit before finally getting my act completely together. (About my progress: I still totally suck, even after months of trying to get that dang frailing right, but I'm liking the activity nonetheless. It's just so... frog-voiced and countrified, if that makes sense.)

I filled my day with magickal little things and spent the minutes puttering happily. I fed the caterpillars I'd collected, found two more in the front gardens, and noticed that four had gone into their pre-chrysalis "J" formations sometime in the night. I kept a wary eye on Miss Lily, who'd found a dark perch and was hunkered on it oddly, feathers all a-fluff (I needn't have worried; today she greeted me with an egg the size of a nickle). And in the midst of it all I got a big idea, tore the studio apart looking for the ingredients, curled wire and beat it flat, arranged star-shaped glitter bits with stamp tongs, and hammered words on metal fragments with teeny tiny letterstamps so oily and fragrant they gave me visions of shadowy machine sheds filled with tools and sleeping motors.... And halfway through my creation I got so... what?... excited by it?... intimidated by it??... that I had to step away for a bit and read a book just to create some distance, it was that unnerving.

In any event, it was an amazing day. And now I'm ready to pick up again where I left off, so here I go. But before I do, I want to wish you a happy Weekend Eve, my friend. May your day be filled with magic, too! And may you take the time to share it with me here. 


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Message from the Rainforest

My world is in shades of green...
I spent yesterday playing with copper wire and bottlecaps, sequins and tissue paper, dog tags and millefiori. And in between bouts of happy creativity I fed caterpillars, finished a book, drew faces, wrote a blog entry, stirred up some mac 'n cheese, phoned my mom, and paid attention.

It was another day of rain, fortunately. With all this precipitation my gardens have become prehistoric tangles of wilderness -- the hostas look like palm trees. I know if I hazard to look under a frond or two, I'll be greeted by slugs the size of dragons....

Because of the rainfall I've been indoors, unable to deal with the work that's piling up outside for me as a result of it: all the weeding and mowing and thinning and whatevering. And because it knows I'm helpless, the ground ivy and woodbine are growing like jungle vines; I can almost see them twining and curling like the animated weeds in a Roundup commercial.

Oh well. Let it rain! It can do so forever and Tumbledown can be overtaken by looming ferns and choking creepers and I'll be happyhappyhappy!, trapped inside with my books and my imagination.

Life is dang good here today. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Most Magical Day

Overhearing the mutter and murmur of wren nestlings as I pass the backyard birdhouse that my dad made for me.

Discovering the first fairyberries of the season (and on the Summer Solstice, too!).

Walking up and down the aisles of a local hardware store while outside a thunderstorm rages....

Admiring galvanized wingnuts, copper washers, and lengths of ball chain and imagining how they could all go together to make a dang fun necklace.

Enjoying a phone call from the Grandbug telling me how she'd 'dog paddow'd' at her first-ever 'thwimming lethen.'

Leaning down to pick lettuce leaves from the garden at dusk and spying a most exquisite dragonfly resting there....

Grabbing just any old book from the shelf before making a lap for the cat, and then discovering that it could only have been hand-picked for me by the Universe Itself.*

Sleep full of dreams, dreams that I can still recall and am comforted by.

*The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg. Read it. Read it, read it, read it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trying to Get Back on Track....

Dearest You,

A blogpost from me is looooong overdue, I know.... And I especially need to follow up on my last topic, the one about women, their work, and how it's never done (at least in my humble opinion), and one is in the works, I promise.

I was hoping to start a dialogue here about it that would attract more comments from other artists. And when that didn't pan out like I'd hoped, I shared a link to the post with my facebook friends in an attempt to drum up some more activity. It worked.

Doing so did generate some attention and interesting POVs, but I was in the process of embarking on an Adventure at the time and couldn't feed/mediate/juggle the comments like I should have and the conversation derailed before it got back on track. And then it waned. And for that I apologize.

For everyone's benefit, I promise to distill that discussion at some point and share it here, 'k? And in the meantime I'll try to post A Little Something more often than I have been.

Caio for now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Big Adventure

Me, happily watching the world go by...
I've been away for a bit, off on an Adventure that began last Thursday when I accompanied James to Milwaukee for the annual Bead and Button show. James used to sell his glasswork as one of the vendors there but has recently taken a much-needed break from it, and friend and fellow glassworker Julie Nordine has since conveniently stepped into his space. It's a different experience for us now as attendees. The city is ours for the taking.

This year instead of driving like fiends the two of us took the Amtrak 'Empire Builder' train to our destination. I'd brought books, sketchpads, and a pillow for napping, and I could have left them all at home as there was just that much to see.

The 6-hour ride rocked by in a blur of gentle rhythms and views that one can only catch from a passenger car. I saw the picket-fenced backyards of the Midwest with their just-begun vegetable gardens, bonfire circles, and private Edens where a lawnchair or two could be tucked into leafy clots of creeper vines or under shady grape arbors (and sometimes were).... I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes dancing in an open field with their fledglings. I saw lawnmower-created crop circles that may or may not have been intentional. I saw miles of telephone poles with insulators the color of Ball jars, and at least three broomsticks standing on end along the woodsy bank (a railroad thing, perhaps?). Golden deer paused at attention in the trees and watched us pass. And in teeny tiny towns with red brick train stations, children stopped on their bikes and waved....

No sooner had we arrived at our hotel than I came down with a monumental sinus infection that absolutely kicked my ass. But I was on an Adventure! And my rules state that Adventures are so important that sometimes you just gotta work through the pain. Our Milwaukee trip happens once a year and I didn't want to miss a thing. So in addition to attending the Bead and Button show, taking some classes, and reconnecting with great glass artists, great friends, and great customers who have become great friends, James and I took every opportunity to see the city.

We visited the Safe House (an annual must-see), and saw the Science Museum. We walked along the edge of beautiful Lake Michigan (that IS the body of water that Milwaukee is on, isn't it?, I'm totally stupid when it comes to geography....). We watched as a bridal party was photographed on the deck of the schooner Denis Sullivan, admired a church so fancy it could be the Yank version of Hogwarts, took pics of a kite in flight that was shaped like a huge rainbow-colored devil ray, bought a book full of the photos of fish skeletons, took video of a pub on wheels (that must be seen to be believed), shared pints of Guinness with a friend at nearby Mo's, encountered magic everywhere (a finger-sized cypress tree growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, a Dumpster with the graffiti'd message "You Are Beautiful", a city bus going to someplace called Mayfair), and had an all-around memorable time. James is seriously the best traveling companion ever, especially for someone like me who needs a 'handler.'

My sore throat and fever caused me to be rather 'out of it' for much of the sight-seeing, unfortunately. And I did miss dinner with friends. But there's also something to be said for hunkering down in a cave-like hotel room with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and nothing to distract you from your recovery save for the occasional footsteps in the hallway or firetruck siren far below on the city street. And for long hours of much-needed rest, I did not forget that my housework and lawncare worries were miles away back in Minnesota, too far for me to care about. It was a nice feeling....

By Sunday afternoon I was more than happy to curl up in a window seat once more and let Amtrak do the driving. And this time I not only saw a breathtaking sunset but I caught sight of a stitched-together patchwork of a houseboat afloat on a lake, a white-painted cabin that had once been an old railroad car, a privacy fence made up of dozens of fancy wooden doors secured side-by-side, what I can only assume was an ADA-compliant deer stand, a silo no taller than a garage door (it had a window and a chimney, too; just the cutest thing), and a tiny cemetery in a clearing in the forest where the few bleached-white gravestones circled a little garden of yellow flowers. I felt privileged to witness them all and sorry for the passengers napping or glued to their laptops watching movies. How could they not be aware that magic was happening right outside their windows??

And now it's business as usual again. The garden peas grew in my absence, and so did all the weeds. My suitcase still needs unpacking and mail needs to be dealt with. An art commission came while I was gone. Boo is happy for the lap I've made. And some chicken soup and ginger tea are calling to me.

Adventures are fabulous, certainly. But it's also good to be home again. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Woman's Work is Never Done

What IS it about this topic??
I'm taking a friend's advice again this week and once more treating my studio like the job it's meant to be. I say 'once more' because I used to do this, a few years ago when I decided to become a full-time artist.
At first, spending days on end in the studio was a breeze. I'd left my job (for health reasons) after a July holiday, and being at home then after years of crazy overtime was like being let out of school for summer vacation. Euphoria! My days were spent playing.
But it wasn't long before I settled into a routine. Stuff piled up around the house. Because James was employed part-time and away from Tumbledown for most of the week, I began to imagine that what he was doing was more 'real' and important than what I was doing, and I felt guilty. To justify my time at home (not to mention the fact that any money I was bringing in was sporadic at best), I tried to pick up the slack and pinch pennies. I did the house- and yardwork as best I could. I planned and planted a vegetable garden. I dried clothes on the line. I cooked from scratch. And soon all those tasks became my priority. (Not to mention being frugal is hard work!) And then my grandbug was born and art went way, way down to the bottom of the list....
Part of my problem is that I'm a woman, and women just naturally think they have to Do It All. And part of my problem is how I was raised. My mom won't remember this, but years ago when I began a new job I made the mistake of saying in front of her how happy I'd be to begin sharing the housework and childcare with my spouse, now that I would be working as many hours a week as he was. And in true June Cleaver fashion, she corrected me. There'd be no sharing. I was expected to Do It All.
And men -- up to and including those of my generation -- still live by different standards, even if they think they don't. If you compared my artist partner to me you'd see it at once. James nurtures his creativity first and foremost. He has no problem getting out of bed in the morning and going straight to his workspace without feeling the need to mow a lawn or wash a dish. Because in his mind, both he and his creativity are just that important. And an unmown lawn or unwashed dish doesn't faze him. Not like it does me. To me, that dish is proof that my nest is a mess. And that means there's something wrong with me.
To his credit, James is more than willing to share the work around here, but keep in mind that he's also a lifelong bachelor. And no offense, bachelors, but y'all gotta admit that your idea of 'good enough' isn't quite up to female standards. (To a woman, there's nothing comfortable about living in an Animal House....) And making him share the work seems hardly fair to me, seeing as how he has a job outside the home (these are my rules; they don't have to make sense).
Anyway, all this is making me think about those artists who've inspired me over the years who are men. Men who were left alone to happily draw and dream their days away because there was a woman in the background somewhere taking care of things. While those guys were busy creating, beds were being made, children were being nurtured, meals were being put together, a home was being kept. But did the creative women have someone doing that for them? How many times have I heard of women getting up at 4 A.M. to write at the kitchen table before sending their kids to school? Or drawing at night when they slept? (Even I've done that....)
When a new artist friend of mine recently blogged about what she called her poor time management skills, her words agitated me. I'm sure her time management skills are exemplary. I'm sure she's a skilled multi-tasker! It's just that, being a woman, she's probably already got more than enough on her plate.
Believe it or not, I've tried writing about this topic at least a dozen times and nothing I say about it seems to make sense, at least to me. Bottom line: Women shouldn't have to carve hours out of their sleeptime in order to make art! But aside from discovering a househusband somewhere, or hiring a staff, I'm not really sure what to do about it.
Any suggestions?