after celebrating the romanian side of my family in yesterday’s post, i realized as i sat down and looked at today’s assemblage that it reminds me of some of the swedish folk art on my mom’s side. especially those little curved balsam needle “stems” sporting bittersweet berry “flowers.” which is sort of the impulse behind folk art, isn’t it? to stylize the familiar and beloved little bits of nature that surround you?
dried bits and pieces; horsetail, bittersweet, locust leaves and stems, hasta flowers, cedar, balsam needles, pinecone
saint paul, minnesota
i love order, but i love almost-order even more. a perfect birthday cake is beautiful, but a perfect birthday cake missing a big fat finger swipe of frosting tells a story. i don’t know what the story is behind the random extra square on this grid, but something in me said it needed to be there. i think i learned this growing up in my big, rowdy family, where perfection was distantly admired, but imperfection was celebrated. The beautiful flower arrangement was nice to look at, but it was so much more interesting when the dog knocked the vase off the counter and it shattered on the floor. tomorrow is my family’s annual sausage making event, where we will all get together to make 80 pounds of romanian sausage, and celebrate our imperfections, and laugh when the dogs steal food from the perfect appetizer trays, and the wine glasses get dropped on the kitchen tile.
striped beach stones and reed stems in winter
stones from bretagne, france, stems from saint paul, minnesota
i had an idea this afternoon of an arrangement of feathers from the most striking birds in my collection, including yellow shafted flickers, blue jays, and woodpeckers. i played with three or four possibilities, eventually calling my husband in for moral support. he got very quiet and thoughtful, as he does when he’s waiting for the right idea, or the right sentence, to come along. i left him there and made a cup of tea, then answered some emails, then put a load of laundry in. i never saw him leave the kitchen. i just saw this sitting in the middle of a white sheet of paper the next time i walked by. i got very quiet and thoughtful. then i went to get my tripod.
blue jay and yellow flicker feathers
saint paul, minnesota
the engineer in me wants to separate these colors into discrete rectangles and order them in an attractive grid. the artist in me wants to splash them in a disorderly harmony across the page. in the end, what you get is what you get. chaotic order? random regularity? mathematical artistry? disrupted symmetry? i don’t know. what you get is mary jo hoffman. take it or leave it.
stems, old and new
saint paul, minnesota
sometimes i can’t decide whether a daily creative practice is a tiring obligation, an inspiring challenge, or just good discipline. usually, it simply is. a daily practice. like good hygiene. you know there’s a goal out there–good long-term artistic health. but any given evening, it just feels better to have washed your hands that day, and brushed your teeth.
poplar branch in winter
rice creek regional trail, saint paul, minnesota
i was attracted to minimalism out of a scandinavian genetic predisposition, combined with a life lived in the flat light of a northern climate, combined with a general feeling of freedom it gave me to be unencumbered by things. but the other effect of pared down material surroundings, which i am not the first to notice, is that having less visual clutter requesting my attention has acted as a creative accelerator. i don’t think it’s any coincidence that still blog was born in 2012, very shortly after i painted all of my floors white and purged the main floor of my house. it has me looking around for more things to get rid of.
balsam branch with fresh snow
saint paul, minnesota
usually i choose my photos for this blog because they are either pretty, or interesting, or both, and usually i have several photos to choose from, so i choose the one that is 1) either pretty, or interesting, or both, and 2) has a story attached to it, whether an interesting biological fact, or an interesting personal connection. this is just a pretty thing. it is not particularly interesting, except that it is a white poplar which is not native to my region but which thrives in conditions that are identical to my region. and it doesn’t have a story, except that i, mary jo hoffman, found it pretty (but not particularly interesting) on a day when my husband and i talked for a long time about how many balls we have in the air right now and how we sort of have to keep the lucrative balls in the air, and how we very much wish to keep the creative, non-lucrative balls in the air, and so i felt, at 10:00 pm, that i needed to post something that was just pretty and easy and not necessarily interesting and that didn’t have a story attached to it that would require me to think about the story, and now that i am done with this post, i realize that the photo is both pretty and interesting, and has a story attached to it.
silver poplar in winter
sucker lake regional trail, saint paul, minnesota
we’ve had an unusual thaw, and the newly re-exposed forest floor has presented me with an expanded, but still limited, color palette to work with: gray, russet, (ever)greens, brown, and straw. for those of you living in more temperate climates, that may sound like a dull, dull world, but i find it invigorating. i am often paralyzed by the full spectrum of summer. i prefer roaming every square inch of a fenced off area to staring at the rocky mountains and wondering where to begin.
a collection of late autumn/early winter finds in two colors
rice creek regional trial, saint paul, minnesota
i just discovered that the beautiful, stitched-looking scars on birch and poplar bark are called lenticels, and they act as pores to let the tree breathe. which makes them both beautiful and functional. like a good math equation.
sucker lake regional trial, saint paul, minnesota
on thursday morning, steve did his usual morning chicken routine, and found one of our girls limping badly. of course, it was clove. clove of the infant case of pasty butt. clove of the swallowed plastic garden tag that made her cough up blood. clove of the still undiagnosed mid-winter ailment that caused her to stand in one place, feathers puffed and staring into the middle distance. clove our fragile one. our big-hearted gentle one. she has spent the last three days and nights with us in the living room, next to the fireplace, in a dog kennel, making soft sweet sounds, and still limping badly, but, as of tonight, we think, possibly limping a little less badly than last night. our hearts are full to have her around for a while, like a daughter home from college, but our hearts are a little bit broken, too, to watch her halt across the living room floor to chase down morsels of apple and, ok, i’ll admit it, small slices of pyrenees sheep cheese from our appetizer plate. we are the worst chicken farmers ever.
wild cucumber vine wreath
tanglewood drive, shoreview, minnesota