when i say black-eyed susans, you think of elegantly oval yellow-orange petals in a halo around a pregnant black center. yes but these, too, are black-eyed susans. golden tan, brittle, elegantly spare. they are just in a different phase of life. when i say “woman,” what do you think of?
black eyed susan’s in april
vadnais lake trail, saint paul, minnesota
we collected this eucalyptus branch and its perfect phillips screwdriver-head seed pods on a walk through a eucalpytus plantation in southern france. we set out that day to hunt eucalyptus, and we found our prey to be abundant and beautiful. but then, on our way back down to the car, we passed a parasol pine grove, where, unexpectedly, an acre of ripe sanguin mushrooms sat like fat hamburger buns in the shade, waiting to fall victim to our jackknives. i’m telling this story because our family has always remembered the day as the time we found all those mushrooms. but look at what else we found that day. and i guess i’m thinking that it didn’t much matter what we expected to find. it only mattered that we set out, in a spirit of discovery. the resulting riches, in whatever form, were inevitable.
eucalyptus seed pods
i am heading down to mankato state university tonight to hear artist and illustrator lisa congdon speak. i am thrilled to be going. lisa, and her collection a day project, was my first spark of inspiration for STILL. i can’t remember how i first stumbled upon it, but as soon as i saw it, i thought to myself “that looks like fun. i want to do a project like that.” i think lisa is one of the most exciting artists to watch these days. she is incredibly hard working and enormously prolific. she has re-invented her style several times already, and she seems to have gracefully intuited how social media can be used to build both community and reach. if you want a great example of what life as a successful artist looks like at the turn of the 21st century, check out lisa congdon.
a couple of years ago, during one of our stays in southern France, our family worked through the book drawing on the right side of the brain by betty edwards. the book states that drawing is not about drawing, in the end, but about seeing. today, my 16 year old got an easter basket photography book, called the practice of contemplative photography by karr and wood. in the prologue, the authors say that photography is easy, but seeing is hard. i started STILL blog in order to have a daily creative practice, but i have ended up with a daily seeing practice. case in point: these buds were tiny flecks of green in an otherwise unremarkable thicket of understory brush. prior to STILL, my eyes would have passed over the mesh of haphazard brown twigs without even registering the points of green hidden among them. today, with my newly art-honed bionic eye, i saw not a vaguely late winter landscape, but the bud-burst explosion trumpeting the arrival of spring.
budding (unidentified) shrub
arden hills, minnesota
soon these poplar catkins are going to fall in heaps like drowned caterpillars along every one of my walking trails, and i will be sick of walking on them. but the beautiful secret of the unfolding seasons is that you are always ready to welcome the newest sign of the newest season as if you had never seen it before, even though you were full to the teeth last year of poplar catkins in spring, and blueberries in summer, and goldenrod in fall, and snow in the winter. i’m not yet ready to celebrate the next snowfall. but give me about eight months…
arden hills, minnesota
i love cattails. i love that they provide us a noise buffer between our very busy metro area lake and our very quiet wooded acre of homestead. i love that the red winged blackbirds announce spring every year, teetering on cattail perches. i love that we walk to the lake through a green cattail tunnel in august. i love that between june and september, cattails have enough furious energy to grow almost 10 feet tall. but mostly i love that cattails are never less than elegant. they are tall and sinuous and slender–the lauren bacall of native emergent vegetation. i have many gifts. i am hard working and versatile and loving and strategic and focused. but i will never be lauren bacall. so it is nice to have her visit my back yard every summer.
over-wintered cattail leaves
turtle lake, saint paul, minnesota
i see the number ø, obscured but visible through the messy organic screen of branches and blossoms. it has got me thinking that these twigs would make a pretty alphabet like the pine needle alphabet i did last week, and the raspberry cane alphabet i did a year ago. hmmm. i feel some font designing coming on.
dried almond blossom twigs
if you are my age, you grew up, to some extent, on the tv adaptation of little house on the prairie. and if you grew up on little house on the prairie, you spent a lot of time sniffling at the chin quivery virtue of pa ingalls, and you spent much of the rest of the time hating nellie oleson and her smug, perfect cylindrical hair curls. i found this cottonwood bark and its curly locks of nellie oleson cambium, on a walk today around pike island, at the confluence of the mississippi and minnesota rivers. i spent the morning among silver maples and cottonwoods in an unspoiled river bottom that, except for the occasional passenger jet coming in for a landing at nearby msp airport, laura ingalls herself would have recognized.
cottonwood bark cambium
pike island, saint paul, minnesota
thinking of marriage as being eternally entwined with someone else might sound suffocating. but i see it a different way. this vine could have shot off in any direction, at any time. but at each turn, it chose to wrap itself back around its chosen branch.
red osier dogwood and vine
sucker lake, saint paul, minnesota