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. :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Greens, Gifts, and Gratefulness

The sounds of gentle rain in the nighttime. A cool morning breeze and peaceful birdsong. Coffee on the still-moist patio, me with my bare legs pulled up under my dress to keep the mosquitoes from them.

The backyard sparkles in shades of impossible green -- pea green, mulberrybush green, four-leaf clover green, gooseberry green -- punctuated with the startling red of a single cardinal on a fencepost, posing like he knows he's the most brilliant thing there is....

The day is a miracle, the sum of extraordinary moments all leading to Now, and I forget that sometimes and am grateful to be reminded. So Heavenly Lord and Earthly Mother, thank you for this day that you've so generously given to me! What a gift it is to be alive.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Where are the Monarch Butterflies??

So few this year.... :(
If you've been following the Maily at all then you probably know that I'm a giNORmous fan of the monarch butterfly. Every year I devote my summertime to rearing monarch caterpillars and I've been doing this for a big chunk of my life.

As a small child I'd often tag along with a neighbor and her daughter as they searched the area's empty lots for monarch eggs and larvae. Anything found was brought home on stalks of fleshy milkweed which were then put in jars of water, and I visited that neighbor's house every day to watch and help with their progress. My mom learned to raise monarchs at that time, too (from the same neighbor), and so I began observing the process in my own house. Eventually I shared it with my daughters when they were small, and now I share it with my grandbugs. (I will share what I do with you, too, if you'd like.)

Behold: my kitchen during past butterfly seasons.
At its zenith, my caterpillar-raising efforts yielded over 300 butterflies in a single season (I don't recommend this unless you have a more efficient way of raising them than I do). But since then, my numbers have fallen consistently and dramatically. This year, especially, it's crazy rare to see a monarch here at all. I've only seen three so far this season and, according to what I've gleaned from a local news station, I'm pretty dang lucky to have seen even one.

One! I can remember when they were as plentiful as honeybees! Oh wait.... Those are disappearing, too....

That's a big 'holy wow' to me....

This year the monarch's plight is even more serious than usual. Environmental nonsense, climate change horrors, far fewer areas of milkweed due to human interference and building development, weird weather patterns that have prevented those few areas of milkweed from maturing when they were needed most -- all have contributed to a season of severe monarch loss.

Are these about to be a thing of the past??
When that same local news station shared this video about the decline of the Monarch population (click to see it HERE), I thought, "Now people will know how serious and important this is!"

But are we in time, I wonder?

The midwestern states are the feeding/breeding ground for the monarchs. Over the years, herbicide-tolerant farm crops have been steadily wiping out a big chunk of their food supply (milkweed is ALL the caterpillars will feed on). And this year's bizarre weather patterns along their flight path has put a big crimp in the tail of the monarch's cycle. It takes multiple generations of butterflies to make the trip from Mexico to here and back again; what happens if we lose a generation, I wonder?....

So you can imagine the emotional rollercoaster I rode recently when I got up close and personal to my own stand of fragrant garden milkweed and saw not only evidence of monarch caterpillar munchings but also evidence of predator attention.
This fills me with hope! :)


But things eventually took a better turn: With much careful hunting with bifocals and magnifying lens I discovered not just one but TWO tiny monarch caterpillars. Two's not 300, I know, but I'll take it!

And if the three little eggs that my dad and I found on his stand of milkweed hatch, and if all remain healthy and fledge with success, I'll be over-the-moon happy with a seasonal total of five butterflies.


Keep your wings crossed.

P.S.: I recently noticed that the 'comments' ability on my blog is functional again. I didn't reactivate it on purpose, so I'm thinking that the Universe is trying to tell me something. That being said, if you're at all interested, I'd be happy to share with you what I personally do to raise monarch caterpillars. Just comment and I'll share, 'k? :)

ALSO: Monarch Watch is a GREAT online site for learning more. There you will find information about milkweed and where you can buy it, learn how to rear caterpillars and how to create a monarch waystation habitat, what you can do to help the monarchs, and MUCH MORE. Please check it out!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Play-Along Update

This doesn't begin to describe it!
Remember my recent post regarding the PAL (aka 'Play Along') challenge?

Well, holy cow! -- I shared a link to it on the Once Upon page on Facebook before retiring for the night, completely unaware that as I slept all sorts of sparkly magick was about to take place.

BOOM went my 'likes' count, thanks to Janet Kisch and the very kind Once Upon Community! And by the time I logged in again in the morning my Mayfaire page had increased its audience by nearly a hundred new members.

It's been over a week and my astonishment levels are still in the red zone!

When I wrote that post I was in the middle of my PAL creation -- sketching, inking, and coloring tiny squares of Bristol, one for each day of the 12-day challenge. Each square featured an illustration and one-word description of the particular day on which it was drawn, and because 'The Day of All the New Likes' was so extraordinary -- and because it was all Once Upon's 'fault' (haha!) -- I created a square with a very happy owl on it, because Janet and a lot of what I like to think of as the 'Once Upons' are fond of owls.

Much of the remainder of my PAL challenge was spent up north at my parents' house in the country, enjoying long happy moments fishing, eating, visiting, relaxing, and (of course) drawing. And I finished it on my final morning there. Before I left for home I laid all the little squares out on my mom's oak dining room table, took a picture of the collection with my smartphone, emailed the pic to my home computer, and -- voila!

I promised to share it with you and so here it is. A bit blurry (sorry....) but I think you can make it all out. And if you're at all interested in a brief explanation of each square, a little write-up follows the photo.

Squares are ordered 1 through 12, beginning in the upper lefthand corner and ending in the lower right:
#1 -- Nostalgic. On this day I was looking at old photographs and enjoying the memories.
#2 -- Away. All my neighbors were home, doing noisy yardwork. I longed to move out to the Very Quiet Sticks....
#3 -- Playful. Time spent being entertained by my Grandbugs.
#4 -- Exhausted. Time spent recovering from being entertained by my Grandbugs.
#5 -- Cocooned. Windows are closed, A/C's on, my house is dark and silent and WONDERFUL.
#6 -- Patriotic. Drawn for the 4th of July. While fireworks go off outside, I write my blog post and link it to Once Upon.
#7 -- Astonished. I wake to a crazy amount of new 'likes'.
#8 -- Picnic-y. The Grandbugs and their parents visit for a barbecue and kiddie-pool party. (And yes, in the delayne dictionary 'picnic-y' is a word.)
#9 -- Hurt. I hate Facebook. 'Nuff sed.
#10 -- Withdrawn. More time spent in off-line rehab. Still hatin' Facebook.
#11 -- I visit my parents for an extended sleepover.
#12 -- My dad and nephew take me fishing. Best day EVER.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wide-Awake Tired

Insomnia has a way of putting a knot in my tail.

In bed by 10:00 and up by 2:00; I hate nights like that.

Last night was the latest in a string of them. And as much as I like to claim that stay-at-home artists can sleep in if they want to, they really can't. (Correction: They can provided they've stayed up 'til dawn working.)

As I watched the sun rise this morning, Boo sat curled on my lap like the kitten in the picture. I was tempted to join her but by then it was already too late -- my normal work day had begun. If I'd been using my head, those wee hours would've seen me pushing a pencil....

But it's hard to think straight when you're wide-awake tired, so I read a book instead, thinking that it would put me to sleep.


And now my coffee break's over and it's back to the drawing board for me. Perhaps when breaktime rolls around again I'll pencil in a nap in the hammock....



Thursday, July 4, 2013

Once Upon a PAL

Today's square -- drawn for the 4th of July :)
Not so very long ago I 'liked' a page on Facebook called 'Once Upon.' It's an online Facebook community for "rediscovering the tales of childhood, revisiting the magic hidden there and fighting some demons" and it's hosted by a charming artist by the name of Janet Kisch.

Janet updates 'Once Upon' often each day, sharing samples of her own work plus wonderful art that she finds all over the Internet. (I can't begin to tell you how much I personally appreciate the fact that she credits the artists, too, which hardly ever happens on the Internet and is just so darn refreshing, don't you think?).

Less than a week ago, Janet gave the members of her site this great suggestion. In part, her status post read:
"On some of the craft/sewing/crochet pages they sometimes have an online 'get together' and create something from a pattern to be finished by a certain date, and then at the end enjoy all the individual ideas that jump from that, and vote for their favs... Now as you know, I'm always encouraging you to PLAY and to bring out your gorgeous inner child into the light of day and have some fun. SO... here's the thought, and it's for EVERYONE, even if you don't think you can be creative, whether you're an artist or crafter or stitcher or writer or even a plumber for that matter, you can join in! It would be a small block a day for a certain number of days with a theme. This can be drawn, collaged, sewn, buttoned, can be ink or paint, whatever speaks to you! I will post some simple rules so we're all working within the same basic parameters. It would be so amazing to see all the work at the end of the time. You would be posting it to me at the end and I will make an album for viewing? If you're interested in a PAL (play along ) just leave a comment..."
Oh yeah, I commented, you bet I did! And although having done so makes me a little bit apprehensive (who knows what accomplished artists are also taking the challenge!), I can't help but love stuff like this as it makes me think outside the pencil box.

When it appeared as though a number of us in the community were interested, Ms. Kisch gave us her guidelines for the challenge, including the time frame and date of deadline (and I won't include those dates here as the challenge is already underway and nearly half over as of the time of this posting, but feel free to visit her site, 'like' it, and go from there, 'k? You could always catch up!):
"Here’s our PAL (play along) and a few guidelines. You can create using any art medium. You can work on paper, card, fabric, you can crochet or knit or take photos, you can make relief sculptures on your squares, anything goes! The theme is “This Day." It will be a reflection of your daily mood, your loves, your joy or anger in each day. If you love a certain thing (like owls) you can do a square a day with an owl to reflect your mood. Works can be abstract, realistic or atmospheric. Your squares could have a button a day, or a brooch a day, a doodled design, black and white or multi-coloured, anything goes! Here are the only things we will conform to….thus making it a project of the same size with the same theme.
• You must have fun, and play, stress free!
• There will be 12 squares each measuring 5cm. (The finished work will measure 15cm x 20cm)
• The object is to complete one square a day, and that they are individual squares as opposed to a page mapped out in squares. The squares will be assembled at the end of the project."
How exciting! I wasn't sure what medium I wanted to be creative in, exactly. I already write a daily e-mail blast and do a daily 'doodle' that I post to my own Facebook fan page, and I try to blog here as often as I can -- all in addition to my regular art, etc., so it would have to be something that wouldn't take up too much of my time. I figured: as long as I'm already putting pencil to paper during the day, perhaps I'd just continue to do so for this challenge. It seemed like a good fit, too, because I've lately been interested in working smaller by taking my designs and my style into Art Cards and ACEOs (2.5" x 3.5"). For me, one of the biggest parts of this challenge would be making use of a size of paper that, at 2" x 2", is even smaller....

Each square so far includes one word that describes how I'm feeling on that day, plus an accompanying illustration. On the back, the square is dated, signed, numbered (#1 for the first square in the project), and labeled with a note detailing what was happening on that day to warrant the word I chose to illustrate.

I promise to share a photo of the assembled collection of squares when I'm finished, 'k?  In the meantime, PLEASE consider visiting Janet's wonderful site and 'liking' it. If you're a lover of book illustrations and whimsical, thought-provoking art, I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Plus, if/when there's another PAL challenge, you'll be one of the first to know about it. :)