Thursday, May 31, 2012


Dearest YOU,

A nap today will change your life.

The answer to your question will be waiting for you in a dream there.... You'll know it is the answer by the relief you feel upon awakening, and you'll wonder why the answer never occurred to you before.

For now, this answer is a secret. Tuck it away in your heart to steep and incubate and grow and mature. Revisit it often. Replay those feelings of wonder and discovery, those feelings of magic and mystery. And smile with the delight of it.

A very good thing is readying itself to be born. To you.

And in the months ahead ~ while your secret swims in your heart like a minnow ~ imagine walking the pathways, climbing the hills, and opening the doors that will be available to you long after its birth.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cottonwoods and Caterpillars

Mt. Cottonwoodseed -- :)

It's that 'snow-capped peaks' time of year here in my neighborhood -- when road construction dumps mountains of black dirt in the sink hole across the street and cottonwood seeds fall gently to blanket them in drifts.

So pretty, if I do say so myself.... :)


And if the cottonwood seeds are flying, then so must the butterflies, as this is the time of year when the amazing Monarchs return to Minnesota after overwintering in Mexico.

I saw my first Monarch butterfly here about 3 weeks ago, and the following day I discovered eggs on my garden's milkweed stalks, and the day after that I found the first hatchlings. At that time, seeing them meant bifocals and a magnifying glass. But not anymore.

What started out as half a dozen new mouths to feed quickly multiplied, bringing us from 6 to 60 caterpillars in a matter of just a couple of days....

Caterpillar chaos

I've been raising Monarch caterpillars annually for ages. I learned to do so as a child by a wonderful neighbor lady who shared her caterpillar raising experiences with me and my mother, and I went on to pass them along to my own daughters. Now my eldest grandchild is involved and already has three years of Butterfly Bootcamp under her belt.

The caterpillars I've found so far this year have been brought inside where I've divided them all into plastic beer cups, three to a cup. (When they're still this small, it's just easier to feed them that way; when they're bigger I'll give them each their own cup.) Into each cup goes a fresh milkweed leaf. Then a coffee filter is placed over the top and secured with a rubber band.

And now the fun really begins!

From now until the caterpillars make their chrysalises they'll need to be fed multiple times a day. Since they take up real estate in my kitchen most cooking ceases. Drawers are pulled out and baking sheets are put across them to form additional horizontal work surfaces. With James helping me the two of us can usually clean and feed a kitchen full of caterpillars in an hour. Then we get a break before the next wave of feeding begins. The year we raised close to 300 butterflies, feeding and caring for them in their caterpillar stage was a full-time job.

This year my amazing stand of garden milkweed has been devastated by something (or perhaps it's lived out its lifetime) and I've had to harvest leaves from a nearby wetland to feed this horde. It's a mile walk there and back again, and unless I harvest whole plants and keep bouquets of them in vases of water I'll have to make the trip at least three times a day.... Not complaining (I need the exercise!), but it seems that no sooner do I feed the last caterpillar than the first one is ready for another leaf!

See what I mean??
I'm sure there are all sorts of ways to streamline the process but this way works best for me. If any caterpillar is diseased or is host to a parasitic fly, I'm able to target that individual and dispose of it before any others are infected. And pupating caterpillars are contained so I'm not discovering chrysalises on my cupboard door handles (or worse....).

In my head it seems like this phase will last forever but in reality it'll have settled down greatly by the weekend. Even now a number of these hungry hungry hippos are hanging upside-down from their coffee filters, in 'J'-formation prior to creating their chrysalises. At that time I'll get a brief break before they 'ripen' and hatch and begin producing Round Two: the generation of Monarchs that will leave Minnesota for Mexico when they migrate.

Any visitor to my house during Butterfly Season I'm sure must walk away shaking their head. But oh well! Welcome to my personal obsession.

Could be worse, right? I could collect books! Wait....

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Did It!

That step-outside-my-comfort-zone thing? Yeah, I did it! :)

My first ever resin class was held last Sunday afternoon, and I think it went well, or at least as well as I could ever have imagined. 

Everyone said they had fun and learned something. And even I learned a thing or two. For one, I learned that trying to teach some seriously creative people something creative is both frightening and fascinating and a little like herding cats. :)

I guess I should have kept my own self in mind when attempting to figure out how to put together a Beginner's Class because I do this same thing: Creative People don't come to the table as beginners, even when they really are. They've already thought outside the box about a material and can see its potential in spades. 

Nevermind that they're not familiar with your medium; they have colorful and complex creations in mind and they want to get started already, dammit, so don't bother introducing them to Mr. Safety Glasses! They're already way ahead of you. They've taken your medium and run with it. They're halfway down winding paths that you weren't planning to take them down yet and they've already discovered new vistas there. They're showing YOU a thing or two you didn't know, Miss Smartypants Teacher....

A little humbling....


If I had to use one word to describe the day I'd choose 'color.' From our host's cheery studio to the students' vivid creations, color just screamed from everywhere. Color and energy. I was almost tempted to sit down with them and create a little something myself, their energy was catching. 

I'm glad James was there with me -- between bouts of being our 'mixologist,' he helped me remember important information to impart and kept me grounded. When the class was over for the afternoon, he congratulated me on a job well done and asked me what I thought of it all and I said, "I don't think I want to do that again."

But it didn't take me long to change my mind. :) 

And now I've already got plans for future resin classes. How does a 'Tea at Tumbledown' event sound to anyone? Open to four people at a time (because four is all I can fit around my table) and complete with tea and homemade cookies?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fantasy Meets Reality

I'm ignoring the signs....
Prior to my recent Grandbug trip to California I'd pared down my luggage to the barest of necessities: a few shirts plus the jeans on my legs and the shoes on my feet. It's not like my daughter didn't have a laundry room, right?; I could always wash, rinse, and repeat. Yet, surprisingly, my carry-on was as heavy as ever.

It couldn't have been just the baby clothes and gifts I was bringing with me. And what would normally have been a library's worth of books had been reduced to a Kindle, so it wasn't that. And I hadn't bothered with shampoos or curling irons or jackets or boots. So what was my problem??

Art supplies.

In my happy little fantasies I'd imagined Time standing still for the duration of my visit, and I saw myself spending endless hours sitting in a quiet room watching a napping baby and drawing everything about her. How hard could it be? I was away from home with nothing to do and forever in which to do it. (Just writing those words gives me pleasant goosebumps.)

On the plane to California I wrote out long lists of ideas that I planned to flesh out, knowing that in the pockets of my luggage were pens and pencils and pleasantly blank pads of bristol board. Had I remembered a straight-edge? Had I packed the kneaded erasers? Should I look for a pencil sharpener at the airport? It was all too exciting for words.

And then it wasn't.

I got to my destination and spent my time there doing everything else but think about art. It was as though just the thinking about it was enough. My energy had dissipated....

Yes, the snowcapped mountains and jack-in-the-beanstalk-sized trees were big old inspirations (not to mention the fairy face of my grandbug!), but I took photos galore of them all and never thought to capture them on paper. I wonder why?

Maybe it's because my hands wanted to be filled up with a sleeping baby instead of erasers and pencils. Or because my eyes were afraid to focus on a sketchbook in case they missed something. Or (more likely) because I hadn't realized just how fast that week would pass.

I'm sure it was all those things and more.

What I DO know for sure is this. Being home now has made me anxious. Great bucketloads of work have filled up in my absence and I've got art commissions to create. Gardens have gotten underway and are flourishing. Weeds have established themselves fabulously. Unfinished projects are tapping their feet. It all needs attention and there's only one Me.

And when things get this overwhelming, all I can think of to do is read.

No help at all. But it makes me feel better every time. Until I stop reading and realize that the brewing storm in my head is about to reach its boiling point.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's Really Important?

Getting ready for some tea and talk
My favorite weekdays are Tuesday and Friday when James works half the day and comes home early. I look forward to that time together because we almost always spend it in creative conversation. 

Sometimes it bugs me a little to know that with those free hours at our disposal, we choose to ignore all that needs doing around here and instead spend our time knee deep in tea and talk.

But then I think of a former co-worker who shared with me one Monday morning how he and his wife spent the entire weekend painstakingly washing windows, he on the outside at one end of the house, she on the inside at the other. I told him I admired his ambition and congratulated him on his big beautiful home, and he confessed to me that he'd ditch it all to live with her in a little cottage where perhaps they'd wash the windows together. 

And then I look at James and know how lucky I am. 

That former co-worker stayed married for another 6 months before calling it quits. She kept the big beautiful house he'd slaved over for her and he went in search of someone to talk to. 

I'll never forget that story. I think about it all the time.

Life is so short. A lot shorter than I EVER imagined. And in the grand scheme of things, my time spent knee deep in tea and talk (or toys and hugs) far outweighs anything else I do.

Even art.

The Little Idea That Started It All

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby Steps (it's not what you think....)

You thought I was going to write about grandbugs, didn't you? Surprise! :)

Tomorrow I teach my first resin class. Which is really my first class about anything. Ever....

It really is a baby step for me because 'teacher' isn't a word I'd use to describe myself.

But, surprisingly, I'm not too apprehensive about stepping out of my comfort zone and doing this tomorrow. Probably because my students are James's fellow glassworkers, people I know and are relatively comfortable with. Plus, James will be there, too, and I'm confident he'll pepper my presentation with humor and fill in any blanks I fail to cover.

I'm interested to see how it goes, actually, and am looking forward to an afternoon spent with creative friends who I'm sure will take any info I give them and spin it into their own unique magic.

And who knows? Maybe this baby step will really be a giant leap for me. Maybe even into something altogether new.

Keep your feathers crossed!

Friday, May 18, 2012

I'm Open to Suggestions

I'd hoped that I could narrow my focus here.... I'm so full of interests that I can't think straight, and they all preoccupy me, often at the same time; the thought of limiting myself to just one subject gives me a big old case of Writer's Block.

Not long ago I began the Mayfaire fan page on Facebook. I tried limiting myself there to small posts about my art and about art-related stuff. After a while folks commented, and when nothing bad happened I began thinking about a studio blog. And I thought: If I combined my various interests with my love of writing daily and my need to share my art, what would a blog like that be like? And what would I write about? Just creativity? Just my art? Just art-related stuff in general? And why did I have to choose?

Then I recalled an idea of mine from way back in my high school years. At that time I'd purchased a spiral notebook full of blue, thin-lined paper and had begun passing it amongst my few friends in a 'round robin' sort of way. I'd write an entry in morning Study Hall and pass it to the next friend who'd read it, add a Little Something, and pass it, etc., until it came back to me.

Most of the time our contributions were of the 'so-and-so doesn't know I exist' variety: the usual teenaged angst about boys and cliques and the curse of unpopularity. But occasionally something fun would happen. A silly post about pretending to be a maple tree in the meadow might spark pages of handwritten flotsam that would amuse us with its 'out-there'-ness.

So with that in mind I quickly made my decision. This blog will be about... something.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To Fairyland and Back Again

I haven't written in a bit because I've been away.

For a whole wonder-filled week I was on a grandparenting adventure. I'd wake every morning to a vista view of skyscraper pines and distant snowcapped mountains, and spend long morning hours rocking my newest grandbug and enjoying girl talk with her mama. We 'grown-ups' enjoyed huge cupfuls of fancy coffee, and breakfasts of hot bagels and homemade pancakes, and sweet moments spent listening to the wind in the trees and little Abigail sighing in her sleep.

Abigail is a fairy child if ever there was one in my family. Little and long, with laser eyes that look right into my soul. Every time we walked past a window together she'd arch her back and look out at the forest, as though remembering that that's where she came from. And if she was fretful, all that seemed necessary was to lay her down by a view of the trees. (Changing table right next to a window = best idea ever.) 

Three days into my visit and we were already on an adventure together as her parents drove us high into the mountains for a picnic. I closed my eyes to avoid seeing the narrow switchbacks and plummeting ravines, but Abigail rode peacefully in her carseat, staring out at the world with wise eyes. This was her turf. Such a nature sprite couldn't have found herself in a better situation, and I suddenly suspected that she'd be leading her daredevil parents on even bigger adventures than they were already used to. (And they're used to big adventures.) 

My daughter and her husband live in a sweet little California town full of quaint shops and cute cottages, and every drive down the hill towards it brought new discoveries: Clouds of roses billowing over a cheery picket fence, or chickens pecking in a cottage garden. The place was right up my alley and I couldn't help but ponder a move there, until I thought of my other grandbugs back at home, and then all plans went out the window. I'd just have to be that grandma. The one that travels and likes it. It'd mean buying some rugged shoes for the constant stepping out of my comfort zone.

Before my arrival I'd imagined that sitting in a chair and staring at that beautiful baby would last forever, but Time fast-forwarded through my week there. As was predicted, I didn't want to leave. The tears began days before my flight home again. Leaving my baby and her baby was enough to send me into a tailspin. I said goodbye and rode the tram to the airport terminal sobbing my heart out, surrounded by businessmen who openly stared at my tears. How could they not know what was going on inside me? My daughter, the one I suspected was too daredevilish to tie herself down with a child, has embarked on The Adventure of All Adventures.

And now both my Girlz have children of their own, families to raise, lives to live. My work here is ending.... Suddenly I realized that Time had fired a starter pistol and begun a mad dash with me roped to it unwillingly. And dragging my feet was not slowing us down....

I've been home for over a week now, and sometimes I wonder if my trip to California even happened at all or if I just dreamed it. My days are full once more playing catch-up with all I've got on my plate for the summer. There are drawings to do and gardens to weed and thoughts to think. And another trip to plan for.

Because I will see that fairy baby again while she's still tiny enough to hold in my hands. :)