Friday, December 27, 2013

Already a Dipped-in-Gold Day

Sparkles of pixie dust continue to gild my Weekend Eve:

For starters, there were Christmas cookies for breakfast. (Peanutbutter makes them a healthy food choice, right?)

And only fairies could've inspired me to employ a cappuccino-flavored candy cane to stir my coffee. (Who knew those were a real thing?; did you??)

Then there was the discovery of a bunny at the bottom of the back steps, eating the birdseed and biscotti crumbs that I'd earlier thrown away.

And now holiday cards have just appeared in the billbox! (So cool that they're appearing even though Christmas is over. I love prolonging the holiday somehow....)

The day's only half over, too; I wonder what delights are yet to come!

But I'm not the only one for whom magick calls. I want to hear about your wonder-filled discoveries. GO!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dear You:

Season's Greetings from Tumbledown
A heart full of happiness.

Loved ones just a phone call, postage stamp, status update, email, heartfelt thought, arm's length away.

Good health getting 'gooder' by the minute.

Time enough to spend engaged in your heart's delight.

An already dipped-in-gold year to look forward to.

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I hope the season finds you over your head in all of the above.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa's Got the Right Idea

Go, Santa; you can do this!
I'm with the Big Guy on this one.

There he is -- ambushed by the Christmas Crocodile of Stress and chased by some festive partygoers as he gets out of Dodge with a sleighful of snacks and a drink in his hand!

Looks like he's gonna make it, too. And with that magick fairy wand in the back, he's got everything covered. Bottomless drink, endless holiday snacks, the perfect gifts. I'm envious....

Actually, those aren't all 'festive partygoers.' That's really supposed to be a little LEGO Me in the background. I tried to make my own 'mini fig' this year but the selections at the LEGO store were slim. I got the glasses and the messy hair right, but I was looking for bibber-alls to dress my fig in, and when I couldn't find them I chose to give myself some serious cleavage to go with those serious hips. 

And look at that -- she's smiling even.

That's so not me. At least not in recent days. 

Things are getting down to the wire here. The Christmas clock is tock-tocking and I just want to reach in and yank its dang pendulum out.... I've yet to bake, clean, wrap, write. I've checked my gift list. Counted it twice. Rethunk EVERYthing. Wondered if the toys I've purchased are too small, or too difficult, or too babyish, or too simple, or too cheap-seeming. Wondered if the grown-up gifts I'm giving are too lame, or too silly, or too handmade, or too weird. Wondered if I'll ever get Christmas cards sent or letters written. Wondered wondered wondered.... *BOOM*

(Momentary clean-up at the keyboard....)
I look at my mini fig in the photo above and know that if Santa'd just hold up a sec, she'd hop in that sleigh, pour him another drink, and start dishing out that pizza. I want to join them! And I'd let them both have dibs on the food and bev. 

Because I want that wand so I can wave it and make everything Perfect....


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Begins

Snow piling up outside. Soup bubbling on the stovetop. Candles casting dancing shadows. Greens on the mantlepiece scenting the house like a woodland walk. Frank Sinatra on the radio, jazzing up the carols. My guy downstairs, enjoying a Snow Day....

Forget hustle and bustle, car commercials and diamonds, and 'stoplights blinking a bright red and green.' I'll take this for my holiday, thank you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sun In My Eyes

Although all the sun and sky suggested otherwise, there was nothing balmy about my walk this morning. The wind on my exposed forehead was like a hammer blow to my brain -- it shocked me awake, it brought tears to my eyes, it made my cheeks bloom like peonies, it made my nose run. But the return trip, with the wind at my back, was perfection.

Clouds sailed the blue sea-sky and made my day appear springlike. As I walked I recalled similar days in my memory of icy winds and moments spent tethered to a kite string, and the thought had hardly formed in my head before I saw one in a tree. Sponge Bob, upside-down, smiling at the sun.

I walk this route almost every day and don't recall ever seeing it before. Had it been there since spring, hiding in the leaves? Or did someone look outside today and think, like I did, that everything looks and smells like kite-flying weather?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Piranha Birds

Lovey's on the left, complete with paper butt tiara.
Peachy-faced Piranha Birds is my new name for lovebirds 'Lovey' and 'Thurston.'
It's not original to me; my friend CollegeGuy (who watches our 'zoo' in our absence) coined the name, and I'm sure he speaks from experience. As do I as of yesterday, as one of the highlights of my weekend was the mega-cleaning of their cage which resulted in a Lovey bite.
Since their rescue, my cage-cleaning efforts have been limited pretty much to changing out the papers on the bottom of their cage. Aggressive little Lovey (I suspect) could skeletonize my exposed flesh in a second, and even though I've been patient and caring around her (and her beaky lunges have subsided somewhat as a result) I'm still a little fearful. I'm pretty sure she's guessed this. Thurston, bless him, is her hopelessly devoted boy toy -- clueless and lovesick and long-suffering. But Lovey is a cold and calculating harpy waiting for the day when I accidentally leave the cage door ajar so she can scissor my face from my skull like a can-opener. And until then she'll bide her time with silly Thurston, having birdy sex....
My biggest challenge has been how to get at the interior of their cage without being flayed alive, and I've put it off. And off. And off.... I wondered what would be the best (and safest) way to go about it. Should I let them out in an enclosed space, like the bathroom, and risk having them fly at the closed window or go right for my earlobes? Would they just naturally return to the cage when I was done with it? What if I had to leave the bathroom for something and they escaped? How hard would it be to catch them in a butterfly net if I had to? Would throwing a towel over them enrage Lovey such that I'd never be able to get near the cage again?.... 
So many things to consider.... But I couldn't stand their digs a second longer. It was now or never.
I'm happy to report that today they're clean and content, but at the expense of my entire Sunday and my thumb. And what I ended up doing was this: I outfitted an old birdcage with a water tube and enough paper to keep Lovey happily shredding her brains out for the rest of the day if necessary. Then I fashioned a square tube out of cardboard, one that would fit snuggly into the cage door, taped it together, then fed it from the door of the new cage to the door of the old one.
Lovey smelled a rat right off the bat and was highly suspicious, but when she saw all the paper on the other side of the little corridor she was through it in a heartbeat. Thurston, on the other hand, stood on this side of it and called to her. Back and forth she went, shredding paper in the new cage, tucking it into her butt feathers, and bringing it all back to the old cage. Don't ask me how I managed to get scaredy-cat Thurston over to the other side, but when I did he panicked. And, of course, he couldn't put two and two together and figure out how he suddenly found himself in this new environment.... Lovey sat in the tube and screamed at him but it didn't work. And when she hopped down to square off with him right to his face, I shut the cage door.
Cleaning that hell hole was a pleasure. And pretty easy, too, as it turns out: Lovey's nest was a 'pooper'-maché creation that fell out in one big lump. Then it was all about the scrubbing and disinfecting. I added a furry 'love nest' that hung from the cage's rooftop, sort of a soft-sided triangular hammock that they could snuggle in. I clipped a new-fangled nesting box on the side and threw in enough flyers and junk mail to keep Lovey happily nestmaking for days. 
Then I grabbed the cardboard tube.
Lovey instantly knew what was going to happen. She dove for the door as I was trying to place the tube and slowly open it at the same time, and that's when she nailed me. Her bite wasn't nearly as bad as I was anticipating, but it was still a surprising pinch, and I yelled at her. And now I think she likes the idea that she got such a great reaction. (Dang. Back to square one again....)
Anyway. Thurston took forever again figuring out how to get to the other side, but Lovey's no-nonsense scolding helped. He claimed dibs on the love nest until she kicked him out. And last night I saw him sleeping on the top of it while she was inside, nibbling paper strips and chittering to herself..... 
And today they're back to being their horrid, noisy, nasty, delightful, sweet-faced, smiling selves. They may be ferocious little piranha birds, but they're all mine and I adore them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Come On In

Inch by inch, I'm putting the gardens to bed today. It's slow going. Mostly because I keep stopping to appreciate stuff. 

You understand.

I'm behind this year for a bunch of reasons and am having a hard time catching up. And also I can't help but wonder if the gardens even want tucking in so much.... 

Looking around me at the rest of the neighborhood I see leafless lawns and plants trimmed back, and then I look at mine and see tiny purple petunias and fresh phlox blossoms with their faces to the clouds. I'm just going to leave them there to enjoy this trying-to-snow day.

Garden flotsam gets to enjoy the day now, too, as the tall and leggy milkweed stalks are now podless and have died back. If the snow holds off until the November weekend, I might just get to add some spooky Halloween decorations to their autumn garden party.


And what's this? ~ a fairy stone in my fairy garden? How appropriate. :) Perhaps it's a gift from whomever has left the door open? Such a sweet little lantern must be used to having something magickal take up residence in it, candle or no candle.... 

And now I'm chilled. Must go in for a cup of tea. 

Oh look -- the kitchen's warm and steamy. You go first, 'k? Ignore the horizontal surfaces all covered with books and dust and art supplies. Mind the shoes that have piled up at the door. And prepare to have your lap filled up with kitten....

Almost forgot: Earl Grey or Darjeeling? I'll put the kettle on.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thought for Today (10/26/13)

Half past autumn has arrived.
Gordon Parks

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camus

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Appreciating the Season

Got my walk in early today, out to Postage Stamp Pond and back again. I arrived there just as an arrow of Canadian geese landed spectacularly into it, and the mallards swam out to investigate them.

'Postage Stamp' is the name I gave the little pond years ago when I first encountered it on the walking trail near my house. It was more of a lake then, albeit still stamp-sized. And immediately after my discovery, the whole thing drained into a mud flat and stayed that way for ages, only moistening for a bit in the spring.... This year has seen some fortunate changes to Postage Stamp, and I'm happy to say that it's held water for much of the summer. Its centerpiece, Birds-Eye Island (another of my names), is back to being an island again.

Of course, I remembered to pack a collapsible canvas bag in my jacket pocket, just in case I encountered something take-home-worthy. And it was put to good use, of course, to the tune of another bagful of milkweed pods. I've always wanted to try spinning the fluff (yes, I now know that the stems and their contents are what's usually used for spinning), and the idea is crowding up my head so it's best that I give it attention....

The recent hard frosts have caused many leaves to fall before they've reached their autumnal brilliance. Much of the area is cloaked now in shades of brown. Occasionally, though, there's a burning bush all afire in the drabness and I'll have to pause to appreciate it. Like today.

Clouds dogged me as I returned to Tumbledown, and I'd begun to anticipate some hot coffee and a warm kitten and a good book. But before I could even unlock the door, a drop of red in the garden caught my eye and made me reach for the camera again: a currant not yet discovered by birds, yet so apparently appreciated by my Green Man that he's shed an oakleaf tear for it.

And now, hours later, the day is shadowed. Inside, all is silent. I prepare to write letters, finish some sewing, grind flax seed into meal, bake a squash for supper.

But before I do, I'll finish this post to you and let you know that you're in my thoughts, my friend. Here's to the season! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Harvestime at Tumbledown

Frost predictions. Snow in the forecast. Salt already on the sidewalks in the City! Just another October day here in Minne-snow-tah....

Many folks are putting up storm windows and picking the last of their tomatoes today. But me? I'm drying milkweed seeds.

I picked the pods a week or so ago. And yesterday (a Sunday) I dealt with them proper. It was the perfect day for it, too; rainy and cold. My kitchen was toasty, my house was shadowed. Downstairs the dryer tumbled bluejeans and sheets, upstairs the lovebirds chewed happily in their sleep. And I was at the sink, my fingers flocked with milkweed fluff as I shelled seeds into a bowl.

And it'd have been super-smart of me to be outside at the patio table as I worked, but there was the rain thing, of course. And when you have neighbors like I do -- ones who have manicured lawns and spend fortunes on pesticides and weed control chemicals -- keeping your milkweed fluff to yourself ('in an enclosed area,' in other words) is probably best, as no one enjoys having a complaint issued against them, not to mention a formal visit from the city's Weed Inspector. However, shelling pods indoors poses a special problem: beware the fluff!....

I have lots of milkweed plants in my gardens here at Tumbledown. And friends have shared with me many different varieties of them, too. I have the usual Swamp Milkweed and Showy Milkweed, which grow everywhere here in the Midwest. But I now over-winter some tropical varieties that wouldn't survive our cold temps here. I always think that they'll come in handy someday should our weird new weather patterns prevent a future year's local crops from growing in time for the Monarchs to need them upon their arrival in the spring....

Harvesting pods is a job I wouldn't want for a Job, I don't think. But once a year it's a special pleasure. I'm That Person who enjoys shelling ears of corn and running my thumb along columns of fat peas (maybe you like to do this, too?), and this is similar. It's also a lot like preparing full-blown dandelion blossoms to become Liquid Sunshine (aka dandelion wine). Sticky and messy. But satisfying, too. While I'm knee-deep in it, there's nothing else to do but go away in my head.

On Sunday as worked I thought of past seasons' Monarch butterflies and the people I've talked to about them at Fest. I happily recalled the looks on the faces of both kids and adults alike as they studied my hatchlings and asked me questions.

This Fest season I couldn't believe how many adults found the whole butterfly process gross! One little girl (whose mother was asking me a question about my artwork) was standing near the butterfly tent and eyeing a chrysalis when it began to hatch. She stepped back in absolute open-mouthed awe, trying to draw our attention to what was happening. The whole event took a millisecond, I swear -- then the fat butterfly was out, suspended, its tiny wrinkled wings moist and curled.... "What's wrong with it??," her mother asked, now eyeing the very-unbutterfly-looking creature, and I explained how the latex-like substance that it consumed while eating milkweed as a caterpillar would now flow from its fat abdomen into the veins of its wet, floppy wings, extending them completely before stiffening and hardening, like a plastic. The mom grimaced while the little girl smiled with fascination.

A while later, when the wings had taken on as much fluid as possible, any leftovers were jettisoned in a blurp of Monarch 'afterbirth,' staining the paper towel at the bottom of my butterfly tent. The mother and her daughter were gone now, but a fresh set of adults were sickened and aghast. "How gross!" they complained. Oh well....

Over the seasons I've found that most adults are ooked out by the process, sadly. Not all, but most. However, every kid -- no matter what age -- seems fascinated. To them it's a messy and magickal miracle. Makes sense, right? Life IS messy.

This season I got the bright idea to bring my cache of saved milkweed seeds to Fest. I separated them into tiny Ziploc bags that I doled out to anyone interested. A number of folks took some home for planting. And any leftovers were scattered around the Site after the season had ended and I'd closed up my shop for the year.

Pods waiting to be opened
Have you ever been interested in saving a pod of milkweed for its seeds? You'll get dozens of them from a single pod, and you can scatter them in your own gardens, if you'd like. The Monarchs will love you forever if you do (and I will, too!). Here's what I do:

Collect ripe milkweed pods. You'll know they're ready if you spy a couple that have 'burst' a bit. And you'll want pods that haven't opened completely yet because they'll just be easier to handle. (I usually have to harvest mine way earlier than I'd like, but that's only to keep them from wreaking havoc with my neighbors....) If you're not going to harvest the seeds immediately, keep the pods in a paper bag so they get some air circulation.

Stem-side down; seam is on top
To open a pod, hold it in your hand with the stem away from you, facing down (the pointed end of the pod will be toward you).

Split open the seam. The seeds will be in a cluster at the stem-end of the pod and their fluffy ends will (hopefully) be gathered tightly at the pointed end, kind of like a seed bouquet. The goal is to grasp the bouquet in your fingers so that the seeds stay tightly together and no fluff escapes. Pull this cluster from the pod. It will look kind of like a pinecone.... (Don't forget to shake out any loosened seeds that have collected inside the pod.)
Separate seam to expose seeds and fluff

Holding the fluff-end of the bouquet tightly in the fingers of your left hand, gently 'back-comb' the exposed seeds with a finger of your right hand. If they're stubborn and refuse to fall away from the fluff, go ahead and scrub them between your fingers. You won't get them all, more than likely. (I'm guessing that they didn't separate from the fluff easily because they weren't dry enough.) Collect what you can before dropping the remaining fluffy mess into another paper bag. When the last pod is finished, close up the bag of leftovers to allow them some more Dry Time. As the leftovers age a bit, you can occasionally shake the bag to loosen the seeds from their fluff. Then after a time simply cut off a bottom corner of the bag and pour the seeds out. OR, sometime before winter arrives proper, grab a child and have them help you scatter the leftover fluff and seeds into a nearby field while you both make a bunch of wishes!

'Back-comb' seeds into bowl
It's my understanding that milkweed seeds need the winter season in order to germinate. You can scatter the ones that you've just 'shelled' now before winter. Or you can store and then refrigerate them for a period before sowing them in the spring. Before storing, make sure they're dry! Otherwise they may get moldy. (Mine are currently spread out on a sheet of newspaper.)

Dry completely before storing
And guess what I recently learned about milkweed seeds that I hadn't known before? 'Shocking' seeds that have been refrigerated seems to improve their germination rates! To 'shock' them, simply soak them in warm water for 24 hours before planting. Who knew?

The Pollination Station has all sorts of cool info on how to store and when to plant milkweed seeds. You can also purchase seeds there as well as sponsor a future butterfly and/or caterpillar. Cool beans!

Happy harvesting!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Starting the Day Right

It's a habit now.

Everytime I light the burner under the coffee pot these days, my head starts singing in Pink's 'who-you-lookin'-at??' voice.

"Ahhhhhhhhhm wakin' up so you better get the coffee started!"

And then maybe two or three cups into my quaffing it just progresses, regresses?, 'goes on' from there....

"Open up the Folger's and it's easy to see
None o' that ol' decaf's gonna do it for me!"

Only now all is in my real voice. Not quite so pitch-perfect but at least sassy. And there's some (dare I say it?) dancing going on as well. In an Eeyore nightshirt. One that says, "I don't do mornings." At least I think that's what's written in that worn and faded word balloon....

I like to sleep. I do it well. And while I'm doing it well my mind is in overdrive. There are images and scenarios and metaphors and characters stacking up in there like cordwood, all stuff that needs processing. I'm learning things. I'm being inspired. And I'm getting exhausted. So much so that starting my day can be like pulling the cord on a lawnmower that hasn't had a tune-up in Forever. Not gonna happen -- at least not anytime soon -- so I might as well give it a rest and try again later....

And so -- singing and dancing aside -- if the prospect of coffee is enough to make this Eeyore open her eyes, then the stuff is fairy gold in my book.

Because a day has to be started after all. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Golden Day

Penning letters, fielding messages,

Writing down ideas, 

Finding a penny on the sidewalk, chatting with the mail man,

Picking up acorns 

and clusters of leaves....

Reading Ray Bradbury, watching a cobweb spider at work, checking up on a friend,

Spying an albino squirrel, inhaling the smoke-scented evening air.

Following pathways of the season.

And now home once more.

There's hot ginger tea. And a softly lit lamp. And Mr. Bradbury again, following something wicked.

Think I'll join him.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Back in my Shell

I'm still here. Pulled within....

The over-the-top crazy energy of Fest is over now and I've reeled my vulnerable self back into my shell. It's necessary.

So today I stayed still. I finished a book and began another. I wrapped my head in a scarf and my hands around a mug of hot sweet tea. Rain lulled me. I heard crows in the trees and buses lumbering children home from school. I saw autumn colors burning in the distance and mistook them for sunset.... I lit a lamp, pulled on a sweater, and wondered for a second if I'd just dreamed my time at Fest.

I didn't. It happened.

Later perhaps I'll endeavor to get my post-Fest thoughts organized. Try to recapture some of their sparkly sheen. Maybe begin a letter about it all and how I got caught up in its magick and about how it changed me. And about how things look now from a little distance. Kind of like fool's gold.

Or maybe that's just a trick of the light....

It's hard to tell from inside the shell.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Winding Down....

Princess Ariel (aka my eldest grandbug) meets a real mermaid

As always the season has been an emotional rollercoaster. It began at "I'm not sure I can do this", quickly roared along to "What do I think I'm DOING??", and now the final stretch is saying, "I'm glad this ride's coming to an end! (But I think I'd like to do it again. Just give me a year so my heart goes back to normal, 'k?)"

Seriously, halfway through the run this year I wasn't sure how I'd feel at the end of the ride. 

Even though I've willingly gotten on the thing annually for nearly 30 years, it still scares the poop out of me. But it also thrills me, makes my heart beat faster, opens my eyes wide, and gives me that feeling that 'if I can do THIS, I can do anything.' 

Granted, in the Grand Scheme of Fest, what I do personally is the equivalent of the Tiny Tots Coaster at Father Hennepin Days. But I look around at all the other crazy-ass X2 riders and feel like I'm part of this group of daredevils, some of whom willingly do this all year long.

And Ivy the Faun, too
This year I really thought long and hard about my role at Fest. About whether or not selling my art was what I'm supposed to be doing, because I don't do it very well. Time hasn't given me a handle on it like it should. I look at my time spent at Fest proper and even in my own head I don't see myself as an artist selling art. I see myself as a human connecting with humans (which is something I don't do very often just because that's the way I am). I see familiar faces, folks who return year after year, customers who've become friends, Fest friends who've become customers, the offspring of each who now visit me, too, only now everyone brings their friends. And I look at that filmstrip in my head and I think, "What's wrong with this picture?...." and I say, "Absolutely nothing. But there is something missing, and it's the selling of art."

And just as I typed those words, all of a sudden the picture in my head stood on its head. Everything I thought about Fest did a flip-flop. And I thought, "What if this isn't about the big You and what I can sell to You. What if it's about me and what You bring to me? What if -- in my little world -- this isn't about selling art so much as it's about me learning something from You?"

And with her brother (far right) making music with Alan-a-Dale
Hmmmm..... Head went all 'splodey there for a second and I had to step away from the keyboard and refill my coffee.... But now I'm back.

So, let's just say that if Fest (for me) isn't about the art, then it must be about the connections, right? And if that's the case, then guess what? Fortunately for me the Universe has seen to it that while I'm busy stepping out of my comfort zone talking to people each season, I'm also selling enough of my work to allow me to ride the ride again next year. How cool is that? (So dang grateful, Universe; big thankyous!)

And that works for me.

Each year I'm sure I come to this conclusion in some way, shape, or form, so forgive me if I've just repeated myself yet again; it takes multiple times of the Universe hitting me upside the head for things to sink it....

And I also think it took a walkabout with my Minnesota grandbugs for me this year to see the situation from another POV. There's not enough magick and wonder in the world is how I see it. And being a part of this wonder-full Village allows me to introduce all my 'buglets to creative and magickal folks who still see diamonds when they look at the stars.

And that's a Very Good Thing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Annual A-Hah

I sell my work at one public venue a year. That's it. That's all I can handle at the moment. And that one venue is a Renaissance Faire. And Renaissance Faires have their own unique quirks that other shows do not. And in all the color and action and fun I tend to forget that....

Until every season when I reach that Point, that mid-season Crisis Point, where I'm awake all night stretched out in my sleeping bag on the hardwood floor of my shop staring up at the stars twinkling through the skylight in the roof and wondering what the frippin' hell was I thinking trying to talk up my art all dang day to drunk people who just want to see boobs and go home. And then I want to throw in the towel. I want to sell my shop and use my inventory as fire starter. I want to punch people for a quarter and make some real money.

I reached that Point last weekend. And I should've expected it. It was a 3-day weekend that started out hot and humid, and that first day drained my energy well completely. Then the rest of the weekend was cool and autumnal. Crowds appeared for the first time in the season. And Depleted Me had nothing to give them. That should've been my heads-up. I should've expected The Feeling. The one that's like wanting to jump off a cliff because hitting bottom would hurt less.

I caught myself in mid-jump this past week and I 'talked' about it. Actually, I posted my feelings to Facebook. But not in a BIG way. Just simple. I said, "I've reached that Point in the Fest season. The one where I doubt everything and suspect that what I'm doing is not what I'm supposed to be doing...." And I got some responses. Comments from friends ranging from, "Breathe. Relax! You're doing fine. You're right where you should be." To, "Enough! Time to stop all this introspective psychobabble double talk." I found myself feeling like the quiet kid at the table muttering, "Nobody likes me," and hearing, "Nonsense; snap out of it!"

Some were sympathetic. A few friends really validated my feelings. One said, "Thanks for standing up & saying what I think several other people are afraid of saying at this point of fest. It's honest." And another, who is probably as intimidated (I suspect) by my tell-it-like-it-is friends and their comments as I am sometimes, emailed me privately to say,
"My thought is that we all should change and grow. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to grow beyond the booth at Ren and see where the growth/change takes you. It does not stop your creativity, only channels it differently. I would miss your shop, but I have been one of those who mostly lusts after and rarely affords your awesomeness. But, I am a very tiny, tiny corner of all of this.
"In my maturing years I am learning that change, while scary, usually brings me to a better perspective and usually a more content life. And most importantly the decision should be made after Ren. After the mind and soul drain have recovered. If it feels right after all that, then take a deep breath and do it.

"Not being an artist myself, at least not one that will ever sell anything, I cannot advise you in any way on how to share your creativity, but you are part of an awesome group of creative people and I just have to believe that one of them "knows the song in your heart" and can help you find the way.

"Anyway, that is what is in my mind and heart after reading your post. Muddled and jumbled as it is, listen to your heart and be open to what it is telling you."
THIS is the dialogue I'd hoped to start. THIS was how the conversation was supposed to begin. I wasn't fishing for compliments or pats on the back or hang-in-there-you're-doing-fine's. I didn't intend to set myself up for the snap-out-of-its and it's-all-in-your-imaginations.

I told my FB friends that I'm not so much questioning being part of Fest as much as I'm questioning HOW I'm a part of Fest. That I wish sometimes there was something else I was good at -- juggling, tin-whistling, anything! -- as owning a shop and investing time and money in creating a product is an expensive way to get together with my friends and be a part of the world I love.

I couldn't be more confident that making art is what I'm supposed to be doing. And I'm pretty sure that being at Fest is where I'm supposed to be. (If I wasn't there every weekend of the season, when would I see my pseudo-Tribe?) However, selling my art at Fest is where I'm all confused.

I should've phrased my status update differently. I should've said something like,
"Fellow Fest Creatives: Do YOU ever reach that Point? The one where you doubt yourself and your work? The one where you find yourself desperately trying to close a sale to keep yourself from feeling like a total failure? The one where you can't imagine what made you think that creating what you create and trying to make a living from it -- and at a Faire, no less! -- was a good idea? And what things do you do when that Point is reached? Or do you see it coming and head it off at the pass? What buoys you? What keeps you going? What makes you continue to put yourself out there and risk more rejection?"
You'd think after doing this for nearly 30 years I'd have a clue. And it embarrasses me to say that I don't, that I still hit that Point and wonder what the hell just happened, that I still struggle.... 

I get that beer and turkey legs and bawdy stage shows that never change appeal to all but art is subjective. Not everyone I meet is going to respond favorably to what I do. And of the few who do respond well to it, few will purchase. And of the few who purchase, even fewer will buy more than one piece. (I love other artists' work, too, but buying, framing, and displaying more than one print is something I've yet to do, so I totally understand this.) And of the few who wish to purchase and can't afford to, few will take advantage of the less-expensive alternatives I offer. So in the end, my bills are pretty much paid (barely) every year with $1 bookmark sales, most of which are only made after I mark them down to 50-cents and offer to include the sales tax. That's how it goes. That's how it goes for ME, anyway. And it's been that way every year no matter how I try to spin what I do, no matter how I try to change up my product line to appeal to (hopefully) more customers....

And then the occasional fantasy of walking away from Mayfaire and just hawking for James overcomes me and I get an adventurous tickle in my gut. Especially when I remind myself that there are other alternatives now, online shopping alternatives, for example, which would allow me to sell my work without having to vie with boobs and turkey legs for my customers' attention. And then I go on to imagine that I'd still be able to throw on a costume, see my Fest friends, and feel like a part of the Clan but it'd no longer cost me a fortune to do so and I wouldn't spend any more angst-filled seasons wondering what it is I'm doing wrong....

...How cool would that be, really?.... 


It'll always be this way....

(*blink blink*)

...And I should accept that....


...And if I can't accept that, I should keep trying on that walking-away-from-Mayfaire fantasy and see how it feels.... How comfortable it feels....


Well, huh....

See what happens when I write to you?

I learn stuff.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Woke up yesterday already a day short....

To 547 new emails, some crazy-ass Bed Head, zero new 'likes', a handful of fresh bills and a bruise I can't account for, 20 missed calls, a houseful of needy pets, a big load of laundry, less receipts than I'd hoped after a decent Fest weekend, and a head full of doubts, questions, wonders, uncomfortable thoughts, and the fading memories of nightmares.

Don't forget, delayne; it's that time of year....

Time spent on my side of the Fest fence never fails to shake me up and deplete me. And a 3-day Fest weekend is almost more shake-up than I can handle. Much of it is spent in my head, wondering: Why did what I hear just piss me off? Why did what I see just make me envious? What is it about that person that makes me want to get away from them, get to know them better, BE them? I know that it is all meant to teach me something about myself as well as teach me tolerance and empathy and fill-in-the-blank. And I pay attention to the point of giving my own self a bleeding headache.

Take this year, for instance. What is it THIS year that makes Mayfaire visitors ignore my new stuff and all-of-a-sudden see my old stuff? What makes strangers want to shower me with advice -- "you should do this and this and this; you could be really good!" -- when I just told them that I've been doing this and this and this for nearly 30 years? (And seriously, 'you could be really good!' just makes me want to poke myself in the eye with a pencil.... It would hurt less than how those words really make me feel.)

Why is it that in a single day there I've been asked to repair flip-plops, bandage blisters, provide tampons or a place to breastfeed a child, redirect folks to the nearest ATM, and yet I've not sold a single piece of art?

What is it saying that my customer base is filled with folks who will pay $1,500 for a pair of boots they'll only wear one day a year, or drop a twenty into the hat of someone who can neither sing nor tune their instrument correctly, but will haggle with me over the price of a less-than-a-buck bookmark when I know they've been dropping ones in the cleavage of beer wenches all day??

Why do I seem to be seen but my work isn't? Is it what I've occasionally suspected -- that I have the kind of face that looks approachable and not likely to bite? Do I look like I might have the answer, stock the tampons, carry the Gatorade?

Why, after all this time, are there still acquaintances who ask me, "What is it exactly that you DO?" Does my shop not display what I do? Is there something I'm doing incorrectly? Something I'm not getting?

And why -- when I suddenly find myself neck deep in a crowd of what I like to think of as My Tribe -- do I feel so alone?............

Yep -- fave time of year. Still.

But it takes its toll.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Weekend Eve!

Magick Pencil art from earlier in the Fest season!

The first big 3-day Fest weekend approacheth! Mayfaire and I are as ready for it as we can be.

There'll be new art and fresh frames. Fortunes, too! (Stop in and choose one.) 

And I'll be working on Magick Pencil drawings and looking forward to seeing some of YOUR work. Why not take a picture of it to share with me? And while you're at it, take one of this weekend's coupon. (Because everyone loves free stuff, right?)

I hope to see you!

And -- just a reminder -- my shop is Mayfaire, #443 (next to the privy entrance) by the Crown Stage.

Coupon for This Weekend (8/31~9/2)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Fave Time of Year is HERE

Smiling! This is obviously before the weather wilted me.
It's begun. Fest is here. And, as always, my emotions continue to run the rollercoaster gauntlet.

I should've suspected something was up on the Friday before 1st Weekend when, way earlier than usual, I looked around and saw that everything was packed/framed/priced/organized and I was showered/dressed/ready-to-go. Because in the 25+ years that I've been doing the show that has NEVER happened. And as it turned out, it didn't happen this year either. I was hallucinating, apparently.

But other stuff did happen. Magickal stuff.

That first Fest weekend I reconnected with some forever friends and made some new ones. I watched a Monarch butterfly hatch and shared the experience with others who knew nothing about the butterflies and their plight. I hung out with my friend Terry (author of the book I illustrated) and his family and enjoyed some great conversation as well as a bowl of his amazing chili. I remembered why I adore my hard-workin' minion, 'Sir Douglas' (every shopkeeper needs a Doug). I threw together some garb pieces that allow me to be my shapeless, grandmotherly self. (That is not it in the photo above; Sir Douglas snapped a pic of me modeling his wife Deborah's Irish dress and once I got it on and saw myself in it I didn't want to go back to being shapeless....)

AND -- get this! -- I got out of the shop and saw the show. And that hardly ever happens, unless there's a bizarre fire that closes down my neighborhood and forces me to walk around site in my jammies....

Who knew that I'd see mermaids preening in a woodland grotto and a circle of fairies dancing in a sun-dappled forest. I tried on masks, admired carvings made of amber and jet, attempted to solve a riddle, was shadowed by a most amazing dragon of leather and feathers and scales. I heard toe-tapping music, watched a stage of gypsies dance with fire, made a wish in a cauldron, and was surprised by an unexpected visit from a beloved friend.

I learned quickly why Seeing The Show freaks me out a little even as it charms me. And I retreated to my dear Mayfaire where I could put a sales counter between me and all the action. I gave hugs and got hugs and shared hugs and was asked for hugs, and by the time Sunday evening rolled around I was DONE. All energy was gone. Monday came and went and Tuesday arrived and it was STILL gone....

And before I knew it, the second weekend had arrived and I was only marginally ready for it.

And then the weather raised the stakes: high 90's with a heat index in the 100's. Mayfaire easily went through five gallons of water on Saturday alone. The few patrons there lumbered around the site like dazed souls lost in the desert. Fest participants paced themselves, bringing a cheerful coolness to the show that hid their discomfort. (I love my Fest Family and the lengths it'll go to to make positive memories for my customers.)

I annoyed everyone with my mothering ("How are you doing? Are you staying hydrated? Can I get you some water?"). I suffered ankle-circling blisters from my leather boots. I lived on commercial sports drinks and pickle juice. I sweated all over my demo sketches. I was miserable. But we were all miserable together. And Fest people can make anything fun, I swear.

And then it was over. That blistering 2nd Weekend ended in an air-conditioned car and eventually in a cool bath with a Freezie-Pop and a book. It's Wednesday already and I still feel foggy. Yet I'm getting ready to do it all over again, only this time for a just-as-hot and just-as-dusty 3-day weekend. And it'll all be good because we'll be together.

And really? In another two weeks or so Minnesota will have frost warnings. So we might as well enjoy these Dog Days while we can.

P.S.: If you're in the area, PLEASE hie thyself to yon Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee! My shop -- Mayfaire -- is #443 near the Crown Stage (where Johnny Phoenix and the Tortuga Twins perform). Ticket and show information can be found here at this link. AND you can print out a coupon book with over $200 in Fest savings for free here at this link. I hope to meet you there. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hello Stress....

Wearing this stuff would almost beat drinking it....
Yesterday I woke up already wigged out.

Then I looked at all the Fest-related stuff that I couldn't seem to wrap my head around.

Then I panicked and went for a walk -- saw a swallowtail butterfly, found some treasure, picked a flower, appreciated the clouds, determined that it was easily the best summer day of the season.

Then I pulled prints and organized postcards and ordered more product and walked around in circles, wringing my hands and verbally beating myself up.

Then I tried downloading a library book to my Kindle. (Stressed? Grab nearest book. Hide in it until better.)

Then I e-chatted with a librarian who dumbed the process down for me and walked me through it because I make things harder than they need to be, apparently.

Then I streamed a great book to myself -- Eggs by Jerry Spinelli (a fave author who writes for children and young adults).

Then I sunk into the hammock with it until the neighborhood came home from work and turned my quiet time into Crazy Town.

Then I poured myself a glass of homemade white lilac wine.

Then I grimaced mightily before growing accustomed to it. It's like drinking cologne -- tastes more horrid with each passing year but dang if your breath doesn't smell AMAZING afterward. (I suspect that when it kills you, any post-mortem people will thank you for it....).

Then I made popcorn for supper and watched an episode of Hercule Poirot.

And then I went to bed and willed the flowery goodness to knock any thoughts of Fest out of my head.

It didn't.

The End.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


'Tis the season.

Of excitement and anticipation and doubts and second-guessings and assorted heebie-jeebies.

Of 'I-Can-Hardly-Waits' and 'I-Hope-My-Garb-Still-FITS.'

Of 'This-Is-What-I've-Been-Looking-Forward-to-All-Year's.

And WORK, of course.

Lots and lots and LOTS of work....




I hardly know where to begin.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's August Eve and Magick Abounds

I'm stalked by sparkles today! Amazing things are everywhere and all I have to do is open my eyes. Check out this little bit of Who Knew?? that I encountered just stepping out the front door to collect my mail:

Did you have any idea that strawberry leaves weep dewdrops at dawn?? I didn't!

And then right next to the strawberries was THIS -- the special geranium that originated with my maternal grandmother -- all abloom. My mom started this one for me from a single slip. And see? Each blossom unfurls like tiny fairy bride bouquets of roses.

And then there was this beautiful fellow who was visiting my garden milkweed as I was retrieving the day's mail. :)

And if all that wasn't enough, there was a delightful letter from a friend waiting in the mailbox for me! So I dropped everything, sat down on the warm front step, and leisurely read to my heart's content while the afternoon sun shone down on my head and insects buzzed in the garden around me.

A dipped-in-wonderful-gold (and I mean 'wonderful' as in 'full of wonder') day and I'd hardly even stepped away from my sketchbook. All I had to do was open my eyes.

But then when I went back inside again, there was THIS:

Bless it's heart and cue the happydance! -- one of my coddled and pampered monarch caterpillars went into chrysalis mode when I wasn't looking.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Meet the Newbies

Do not be fooled by their sweet faces....
In addition to these not-always-so-daily posts I also write a not-always-so-daily e-mail blast, and one of the things I like to include in each is the info provided by the fun folks at Punchbowl who provide my blog widget (scroll down at right and you'll see it).

Today when I clicked on the widget to get more info (it's National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, yay!), I also learned that this week is National Zookeeper's Week. Well, huh! With all the creatures I happily tend here at Tumbledown each day -- the monarch 'pillars; the grandbug's terrarium of pillbugs; the beta fish, cockatiel, housemouse, snakes, tarantula, blah, etc., fill-in-the-blank -- I feel like I should be taking the week off in celebration.

So in honor of my perceived 'zookeeperishness' I'll take this opportunity to share with you Tumbledown's most recent addition: meet 'Lovey' and 'Thurston,' a pair of rescued lovebirds (courtesy of my James, who isn't bothered by insane tropical bird noise, for which I'm totally grateful).

Lovey's on the left in the photo above. She looks all sweet and ladylike, doesn't she? Guess again! These were abandoned birds for a reason, and I have a hole in the thumb of my Menard's leather gardening gloves to prove it.

But I'm patient.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Spirit Tree, Play Along with Me!

You've heard this before, I know, but every weekend I try to walk away from the computer to purge myself of All Things Social Media.

For me it's like an Honoring the Sabbath thing, an attempt at distancing myself from technology, a way of refreshing my soul with a bit of simplicity.

Sometimes I'm successful. Sometimes not so much.... This weekend was the latter, but I had a good reason: I participated in another PlayAlong courtesy of the 'Once Upon' site on Facebook.

You remember me telling you about the first 'Once Upon' PAL, I'm sure (if not, check it out HERE). The deadline for this one was yesterday -- a Sunday -- and by the afternoon of the day before I had yet to create my entry (you're surprised, I can tell).

It's not like I'd procrastinated about it, I've just been so BUSY. This is easily the craziest time of year for me what with the Monarchs, the grandbugs, the gardens, the Renaissance Festival, the fill-in-the-blank. When I remembered the PlayAlong I almost threw in the towel. I knew I'd be lucky to find the time....

But the directions for this challenge were to draw a 'spirit tree' on a sheet of 8.5x11 black paper stock using only white media, and I couldn't pass that up. Black and white? My favorite colors! TREES!? My favorite things!

Yeah, there was no way I wasn't gonna participate.

So although Saturday afternoon saw me scanning, cleaning, and readying original art for printing, I tried to sneak in some play time here and there with some construction paper and a white Crayola pencil. Thankfully my scanner is slow, so there were tiny blocks of time in which I could work.

Drawing on black paper was a challenge, but photographing it for the PlayAlong share was the pits. It would've worked had I used natural light, I'm thinking, but there wasn't much of that around at midnight. Still, I inched in under the deadline, and you can see my entry above.

I surprised myself -- or rather my pencil surprised me -- by drawing something more whimsical than spiritual. I went into it expecting to see stars and spirals and maybe a trunk like the body of a goddess, with arms reaching for the moon. Lots of drama! Yeah, no.... My drawing hand had other plans! But I like when that happens. I'm constantly surprised, and that's a good thing. And I wonder sometimes if having grandbugs now has my head stuck in Picture Book mode. Cool!

Be sure to visit the 'Once Upon' site and 'like' it, 'k? Then check out the PAL 2 album to see everyone's great Spirit Trees. Believe me -- there are some GREAT SPIRIT TREES. You'll be glad you did. :)