this beaver had already dropped a good sized aspen onto the pedestrian bridge over the channel between sucker lake and vadnais lake. now he was working on an even bigger poplar, determined to dam the channel, and unaware that pretty much the entire Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Saint Paul Water Authority, and Ramsey County stood poised to undo his work the minute he succeeded. even if he knew ahead of time that his work was in vain, i don’t think he could have resisted the addictive feeling of scooping out that last couple of poplar shavings, right before the tree starts to waver, and then crackle, and fall.
beaver chipped poplar tree
sucker lake regional trail, saint paul, minnesota
let’s face it. this beautifully blemished cockle shell would be quite boring without those barnacles. they look like well used molars, and anything with the air of having gnawed on a bit of life over the years earns the word “beautiful” in my dictionary.
cockle shell with barnacles
north captiva island, gulf of mexico, florida
so here’s what i’m confessing to you, my still blog community, enamored of minimalism and the bare essentials. steve and i have a dream. some day, after the kids are in college and money is just slightly less of an issue. we are going to set off somewhere, probably a major american city, and we are going to bring nothing with us. for a year or so, we will live in a white space somewhere, with a bed, a kitchen table, and two comfortable chairs, and almost nothing else, and we will let the abundance of the city provide what we need. and we’ll just see how it goes. that will be a fun thing to share with you, when it happens.
four small bird nests
saint paul, minnesota
i can’t decide if this is a dinosaur with scoliosis, or a prehistoric centipede running away from me, or the narrative spine of steve’s book which has, truth be told, haunted both our days and nights for a while now. steve’s naturally good at the wordsmithing flesh. but we’ve had to work hard on the bones that are giving the book its shape. when we’re done, i’m hoping it will be a supermodel. or cary grant. in any case, you’ll be hearing about it in all of it’s osteo-carnal glory when the time comes.
box elder tree twigs
i am still working on that pitch for target. actually, i set it down for a few days, and just picked it back up today. the presentation is scheduled for next monday, january 26th. the process of putting this pitch together has me skimming my STILL portfolio over and over. i have noticed that i have a nice collection of STILL patterns going, but that the majority are in shades of green, and only a few are in my beloved winter palette. so i will be setting out to correct this egregious wrong in the coming weeks. first up: allium seeds.
dried allium flower head deconstructed
when we were in our late twenties, my husband and i read a book called your money or your life by vicki robin and joe dominguez. the book is a little dated now, but is still a thought provoking book worth reading. one of my favorite ideas in the book, that we still refer to twenty years later, is the idea of “enoughing.” in other words, not searching for more all the time. just searching for enough. the other theme of the book that has stuck with me over the decades is vicki and joe’s take on vacations. they posit that if your day-to-day life is truly authentic, and fulfilling, then there is no need to vacate it. vacations become unnecessary. it’s a fascinating idea. steve and i talk about it to this day. i think that we have concluded that we mostly agree with them, but that travel, as distinct from vacation, is its own separate reward. not an escape, but a deepening of experience. travel fills a different well than either daily life or the pure escape of vacation. that is not to say that, as i look forward to two or three more months of minnesota winter, i would turn down a hinano beer on a white shell beach in tahiti right now with any of you.
shells from the gulf of mexico and the mediterranean
apparently i can feed livestock, control erosion, and maybe someday run my car with switchgrass. i didn’t know all this until i got home with a shock of it under my arm. i just knew its wispy seed heads had been waving ethereally in the wind, and that they were pretty in a delicate, mia farrow kind of way. i’ll never look at mia farrow the same way again. apparently she’s an innovative workhorse, and possibly holds the key to america’s energy future. go mia!
rice creek regional trail, saint paul, minnesota
last night i said to steve,”ok there it is. i just put everything i have left into today’s image. have no more ideas. no more collections. no more specimens. no more b-squad images just good enough to be still-blog-worthy on a bad still-blog day. and it’s still only january. i’ve still (no pun intended) gotta fill two whole months of winter. i’m tapped out,” i said. and i meant it. then, this morning, i took a single leaf from a single stem from a single square of yesterday’s color swatch image, and i’ll be damned if i didn’t come up with this! someday, when i’m finally worthy of her, i will internalize the fact that nature contains boundless inspiration. in the meantime, i’ll just say a humble thanks.
a single leaf from a blade of prairie grass, probably quack grass
grass lake regional trail, saint paul, minnesota
as an artist you can go in two possible directions to find new material. you can roam the surface of the earth, always looking for your next inspiration just over the horizon. or you can stay in one place, looking for your next inspiration one layer deeper, rather than one step farther. i’ve made my choice. which does not mean it was an easy one.
collections of winter specimens arranged by color
this photo feels like the first harvest after the root cellar has been emptied, or the first soaking rain after a drought. as of this morning, i was quite out of old images and new ideas for STILL. our recent polar vortex had prevented any walking with a puggle, so I hadn’t done any gathering for a week or more, and the target pitch i’ve been working on has been an all-consuming, all-hands-on-deck cramming-for-finals kind of effort. so, when i saw forecasts in the 30s today , i grabbed my gathering basket and headed out for an emergency forage. if the volume of stems on my kitchen floor tonight are any indication, i may have overdone it a bit in my anxious enthusiasm. i guess we’ll know more when i’ve started to triage by color palette. meanwhile one of the items too big to fit in my basket was a six foot tall stem i had never seen before. when i got home, i set about deconstructing it, as you see above, while my hubby (@sjrhoffman) worked some Google magic to identify it as Japanese Knotweed, which is, of course, an invasive species in MN. i’ve been doing this long enough. i should have guessed. at this point, any striking stands of meter high wetland weeds that i haven’t noticed before are almost certainly going to turn out to be invasive species. the one advantage of spending twenty minutes carefully deconstructing this plant is that i will forevermore be able to identify japanese knotweed. now i just hope the rest of the stems in my basket are familiar.
decontructed japanese knotweed in winter
grass lake, saint paul, minnesota