Wednesday, March 31

hops a'growin'

Rain here, mixed with a light scattering of heavy snowflakes and the occasional bird wafted by on the strong wind. A pair of mockingbirds populate the backyard at the moment, eating a little bit of the old crusty loaf we scattered. Flooding water is filling low bits in the lawn, and the top to the nyjer thistle feeder is threatening to pop off. Again.

I'm a moment away from brewing a pot of tea, getting into some comfy pants, and heading up to my studio to turn on the space heater ~ but I just wanted to let you know the hops are sprouting. They mean spring. They mean cloudless days, deep blue skies, and yards and yards of succulent sticky vines, climbing to our second-story window. They mean homebrewed beer, made by my brother-in-law and avidly watched over by Tim, and sipped at most family get-togethers. This is made more interesting by the fact that we used popsicle sticks to label our 5 (7?) types of hops, and the names quickly washed off the first year, so the flavors are...mysterious. I don't even drink beer but I like to bandy with words like "hoppy," "full-bodied," and "nutty," (Is this someone I know?) and enjoy seeing the magic that the brother-in-law makes with some jars, tubing, gases and fermentation. He's like a clever mad scientist. He even made mead once.

Now, that might give me an excuse to keep bees. And I don't even drink mead...

Tuesday, March 30

rainy day hike


Our rainy day hike yesterday at French Creek State Park. We looked for but saw no salamanders. In fact we didn't see anybody at all for the hours we walked. Gorgeous!

video

Monday, March 29

red plaid & cardinals

We had lovely warm sunshiney weather here last week. Now it's been rain for days. It's rather gloomy herebouts and I feel like I can't quite get enough light to really focus on anything. We had plans to be camping this entire week at a place down in Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but something came up and we're here at home.

On a brighter note (cause there always are some! grumble) someone told me about Market Spice tea and it's stunning. Just what I needed today ~ oranges & spice. And an open wood fireplace and hand-knitted wool socks and another couple of dogs would be nice.

On a walk a few days ago, I just about tripped when I looked up and saw a male cardinal in a vibrantly pink flowering tree. I've never seen a redder bird. I literally couldn't look away and, when he flew off, I found my legs walking on again.

This spring is knocking my socks off.

Saturday, March 27

red tree blooms


Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars... and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful.  Everything is simply happy.  Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance.  Look at the flowers - for no reason.  It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.    ~ Osho

Friday, March 26

collecting




I collect rocks. Rocks from all over. Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Florida, California, Colorado, Belgium, Scotland, England, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic. They've come from rivers, hiking paths, piazzas, woods, beaches, lakes, and campsites. I like to tossle them all together, pick through and remember. My rocks make me happy. I like how one from Central America will nestle next to a Swiss one. How that stone from Colorado complements the pebble from the Lost Coast of California. How one from Miami Beach balances just perfectly atop a backcountry Italian one.

I like how they are what they are, and how they all get along.

I also collect Agatha Christie paperbacks. I am usually reading one of them or another and they are always good to read while eating (scones and honey, tea ~ and that's in the book, not only on my plate.) My collection numbers presently at 54 and counting. (She wrote over 80.)

Yesterday, I went into a thrift store I usually don't stop by very often. They have an enormous paperback section that can be daunting, and, at times, exhausting to look through. I have to be in the right mood. You know.

So yesterday I went in there and I found 25 Agatha Christie's that I don't own. I almost had a heart attack. Then I was worried someone might (gasp) grab some so I got down to it and pulled out my little list (yes) and checked which ones I didn't have.

I struck gold.

I almost don't know what do to with myself. Because, except for one book (The Harlequin Tea Set and other stories) my collection of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and Tommy & Tuppence is complete. Complete. I've been building this collection up, book by book, for years. Finding one at a thrift shop here, one at a garage sale there. One at an airport. A used bookstore in Boulder. I don't buy them online: I've waited for them to find me, one title or two at a time. And they have.




*

Thursday, March 25

luck

I'm one of those kinds of people who can go on a walk and look down at a patch of green growing things and see the 4-leaf clover. Like it's waving at me. hello. it says, from way down there.

I have even found 5-leafed clovers. I don't know. I have the eye. I think it's hereditary ~ my grandmother once kept a hardcover book solely for the use of pressing 4-leaf clovers.

I can give you a tip for finding four-leafed clovers: they look like squares. That's the best I can say. And once you find one, there are always more nearby.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And I'm going to shamelessly plug myself here by telling you I've put three of the Moleskine cahier pocket notebooks I've been embroidering into my shop. Have a look. These are really fun to work on. :) 

Wednesday, March 24

teacups

So today is something like the 4 month, 2 week, and 5 day anniversary of the day I started this blog. :) And when I titled it always time for tea, I had no idea that would spark off a total personal obsession with tea. That I would start imbibing every day. That Tim and I would switch over to (almost) solely, loose tea. We would scorn teabags. We would argue about the open tea strainer and the mesh ball. I would start collecting even more teacups with wild abandon, over Tim's protests (babe, do we really need....) I would start thinking, really, that maybe there is always time for tea. I would slow down, pause, sip. I would start taking excessive photographage of my tea habits. I would even get to experience caffeine hangover. We would explore different local honeys as sweeteners, and argue about the merits of a small jar vs. a big jar. Tim would stop drinking green tea after some weird psychadelic experiences sipping too much of it.

All these things were about to happen to me 4 months, 2 weeks, and 5 days ago. And I never even guessed.

Tuesday, March 23

vanilla steamer & garden speak

Sitting in the garden in bare feet, the wind blows with the hint of a soul of snow. Sunshine and mini daffodils; mockingbirds and honeysuckle sprouts. Nutmeg thyme and log-round side tables. Panting dogs who stay in the sun. Our garden is a small, private, secret place. We've grown white clematis over the fence in mountainous disarray to hide us. I've peppered the ground with purple alyssum and blue poppy seeds. We have left a small patch of grass liberally interspersed with clover, and will mow this with a push-mower the previous owners left. We have been here three-and-a-half years.

I know what the sunshine does in the backyard: how it climbs over the neighboring roofs and hits certain parts of our garden at certain times. I now know what to plant where, according to its sunshine likes and dislikes. I know which chairs will be in shade by 11am, and where to put the sun tea so it gets the maximum amount of soaking in the rays. I know that if I let tiny, sweet, fresh-sprouted sunflowers grow in certain spots, they will quickly cast skyscraper-sized shade on my lavender. I know that the goldfinches will come with their fledglings and make short work of those sunflowers, picking off the petals on the top of each huge bloom to make a space to perch.

Ours is a tiny backyard, but we love it much. (I think the feeling's mutual.)

On another topic: Pugly Pixel featured some of my Polaroids on her blog yesterday, which sometimes highlights her favorite flickr photos. If you care to, go over and have a look!

Monday, March 22

tea etiquette & film obsessions

"The old-fashioned English dictate "milk in first," or "MIF" - supposedly a sign of good breeding - was simply a way to prevent thin porcelain in typically cold English houses from cracking at the touch of hot tea."

~ from "What to put in tea," from Joy of Cooking


In Gosford Park, Lady McCordle (played by Kristen Scott Thomas) requests to Inspector Thompson (played by Stephen Fry: Jeeves!) that he put her milk in the teacup first. Know I know why. And now I know what I'm watching again next chance I get. I love that film. On a side note, do you ever have a film that you watch over and over, and it takes forever to get tired of it? I first heard of this back when Benny & Joon came out, and I knew someone who knew someone who watched it 35 times. And it was a rental.

But then I started doing it: watching a movie multiple times, enjoying every nuance. I've done it with Gosford Park, for example. Also, The Mummy, for reasons unknown to me, because Brendan Fraser is not my fave. But Rachel Weisz is, which leads me to another serially watched film: Stealing Beauty.  I've at different times been taken with Under the Tuscan Sun, Le Divorce, and Jurassic Park.  There's no rhyme or reason. I've also gone through my foreign language phases with Pane e Tulpani, Bella Martha, Manon des sources, Respiro, Volver, and Habla con ella. I've watched each of these films over twenty times. Each. At least. I play them in the studio while I'm working like most people put on a cd. The funny thing is, I can't watch them for years after I do that. I put them aside till my brain regains interest. And feeling.

But, I think...I think I'm ready for Gosford Park again.

Friday, March 19

I'd rather have sunshine than taxes.

Another day in the 60*s. Lovely. I'm embroidering some little journals, making tea (that's a given, hm?), just walked the dog ~ and met Tim walking our other dog (interesting story here) and got this in the mail. (I really love getting mail. And I really love that film.)

For the past two eve's right between 6:18 and 6:23, the sun hits our front door in a glowing kind of way. I've been staked out with my Polaroid SX-70 camera, and last night I got the shot I was looking for (above.) I had to move quick.

I also just talked to our accountant and realized I should have been keeping detailed accounts of my art expenses for the past fiscal year, to offset costs. Which I haven't been doing, even though I am self-employed as an artist. I just...didn't realize... (the government loves hearing that, I'm sure.) I mean, writing up my mileage? My art life and my daily life are one and the same, it's hard to differentiate. But from this day forward I'm going to toe the line and write things down. Maybe in one of these.

Thursday, March 18

hello's in all colors

I have been having some computer troubles this week and it's driving me bonkers. In fact, I'm trying not to think about it. So I'm at the Library, not thinking about it. My Library has a nice little area with tables overlooking a huge long wall of windows: ceiling to floor. It's lovely when it snows but fortunately now, spring's peeping and little bright bits of things are poking up from the ground and saying hello's in all colors.

Yesterday was the first spring gardening day for Tim and I. I split and replanted our huge bunches of oregano, lariope and bleeding heart. The purple alyssum from last year has reseeded itself and is sprouting. We're dreaming of beets and brocolli and spinach. And of buying a big flat of purple salvia, lemon thyme, and that magical plant that looks like purple clover. (Okay, I'm dreaming of that. Tim's mainly dreaming of the beets.) I'm waiting for the hummingbirds to show, and the goldfinches to turn yellow. My fingers are literally twitching to get things planted ~ we're going to try Hungarian Blue Poppies (poppy seed poppies) again. Each one is a lovely lavender and I like them so much I point each freshly opened one out to Tim each morning. He's very patient with me.

Tonight we're planning a little chiminea fire and some dinner outside. Our cat Mimi had surgery monday for a little lump and is moping around the garden wearing one of those cone collars looking ridiculous, sweet poor thing. She's been soaking up the rays all morning trying to pretend she's actually allowed to groom herself. Only 5 more days, Mimi. Forza!

Monday, March 15

tea & rain


I can hear the church bells ringing the quarter hour. The cricket and frog cd is on, and Tim is curled on the couch underneath Mimi, and between them the blue wool. We are in the little side room we use for thinking and being in quiet. She purrs scratchily against a background of trembling wind, which is whipping all tendrils of heat from the windows. It is chilly. The pines sway. I am reading: "At sunrise I could usually be found writing at one of the two library desks. A diffuse light filtered through alabaster windows, and beside me there was a pot of hot black tea flavored with Yemeni honey."*

Looking through my journal I find an entry from 2 weeks ago today: 

awoke at Hostel Marin near Sausolito ~ an empty land full of green and mist, eucalyptus and owl's hooting. In bed at 8pm last eve ~ rolled tent, drank sweet orange tea, listened to frogs peeping, drove to Muir woods.

saw deer, kestral pair at hostel, turkeys displaying.

Muir Woods ~ redwoods, looked for banana slugs but saw none. moist trails ~ all reds and greens. moss.

ate small goudas & yellow apple.


*Motoring with Mohammed, Eric Hansen

(edited to add: and the mailman just came: these arrived. Oh. My. Lands.)

Friday, March 12

white garden dreaming

Today on a walk at dusk before the rain, I saw the first white snowdrops crowning beneath a bush. (Right around the corner at the house with the huge Great Dane.) I never really understood the passion for white gardens (this book talks about them) until I started spending time in my own garden at dusk. In the later evening, with the chuckles and sparkles of the fire in the chiminea lighting the dark, and the white irises glowing beyond, bobbing above the white alyssum, and farther off, the cloud of white clematis under the stars. The deep purples, cobalts, oranges and ceruleans that make up my daytime garden? Not to be seen. Erased by the setting sun like an octopus shooting its cloud of ink.

So last fall, I planted more white in my garden. White so that the garden will have two faces; two sets of dress. White to reflect the moon, the starlight, the firelight. White so that my evenings, dusks and nights will be set against a speckled, luminous backdrop of gently moving, softly breathing shapes.

As of now, the sun is still too cold for my imagined feats. We enjoy chilly afternoons in a windswept, slowly warming emptiness of underground secrets. The roots will soon be stirring but, for now, I think of other things. I sip my tea. I wait for the day when, at dusk and in bare feet, I will watch the flowers in white sway and light my night.

Thursday, March 11

a warm march afternoon



My work is loving the world. 
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — 
equal seekers of sweetness. 
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. 
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? 
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me 
keep my mind on what matters, 
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be 
astonished.

~ excerpt from Messenger by Mary Oliver


second photo by Tim: his first use of the SX-70 Polaroid Land camera.

Wednesday, March 10

sardines & sharks

So about two weeks ago I was here. Wandering around the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Checking out the jellyfish, the giant tuna, the shimmering schools of sardines splitting and reforming as sharks passed through. Learning strange and wonderful facts and stories about things like the density of sea otter hair and variations of starfish skin.

This world we live in is a fascinating place.

I'm glad I'm here.

Nowadays my life is more about watching the garden dirt = waiting for sprouts, enjoying the odd unexpected 60* afternoon, soaking in sunshine on my pale winter skin. Drinking blue tea, restocking the pantry, reaquainting myself with my studio. (We seem like strangers.) After traveling, I always seem to bring home lots of ideas for artwork and sundry projects, and weeding them through and filtering them properly takes unrushed time and the full, unharried cooperation of my subconscious brain.

I spent the trip becoming friendly with the unknown, and, upon my return, am becoming friendly once more with the familiar.

(And flickr. Oh flickr. Flickr, you make me very, very happy.)

Tuesday, March 9

in the details





(for more photos, start here or go here.)

Monday, March 8

appreciations & noticings



A lot of great things happened on my trip that I was grateful for, appreciated, and treasured. (In fact, that's kind of what makes each day worth living, no?) I enjoy that super-awareness that comes with being in a strange place, when everything is new and interesting and of note.

Such as...

This snail Polaroid I took. Perhaps my favorite photo, ever.

That incredible school of flashing silver sardines at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that I could've watched all day. Magic.

The woman who left the sea salt-and-chocolate covered almonds in the communal fridge at the Hostel near Sausolito. Perfect timing. Much needed. Thank you.

That sea otter I spotted floating in the turquoise frothed surf along the Big Sur coast.

Drinking tiny ceramic cups of tea - rose, white, jasmine, blue - at the tea shop in Chinatown with the walls of loose tea jars and the wooden counters. 

The hawks, falcons and kestrels sitting on poles, wires and trees up and down the coast all week.
Overhearing my mum humming "Librarian" by My Morning Jacket while rooting around in the trunk. Strange, but true.

How the mist and fog cleared up each morning, and it only rained twice, at times when we weren't outside. 

Roxanna, who wore lime and kelly greens, sipped her mate and nettle tea from a silver straw, and had her car packed with belongings as she drove to her new home in Tucson. Best wishes to her - she was a piece of pure sunshine.

Hearing the surf crashing while huddled in my sleeping bag in the cold tent at Half Moon Bay, seeing the black sky faintly studded with stars around a full moon, awaking to sunshine, and that morning hummingbird.








*

Saturday, March 6

viewpoints

Highway 1, Big Sur coast

I overheard, in the airport, a mum talking with her young daughter: "Well, some people say God makes the weather; some people say Nature makes the weather. Some say nature faeries make the weather. And some say clouds make it. You never know."

Friday, March 5

redwoods




space to breathe




...and all while listenin' to -

One by One, Billy Bragg & Wilco
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, Fleet Foxes
The Blessed Breeze, Fruit Bats
His Master's Voice, Monsters of Folk
Beautiful Morning Light, Fruit Bats
Librarian, My Morning Jacket
Poison Cup, M. Ward
Waitin' for a Superman, Iron & Wine
Your Protector, Fleet Foxes
If Not For You, Bob Dylan
Just One Thing, My Morning Jacket
Lay Lady Lay, Bob Dylan
Harvest Moon, Neil Young
Outta My Head, M. Ward
The Sandman, the Brakeman, and Me, Monsters of Folk

(...to see more photos, go here.)

Thursday, March 4

Sit. Sip. Breathe. Pause. Think.



Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park


Drinking Darjeeling tea while going through some of my photos.

I'm noticing differences between being away on my trip and being at home.  I feel more hurried here, my pace quickens. On my trip, I breathed deep at changes and took one moment at a time. I was so aware each moment of how I felt, what I needed, and where I was. I want to keep that mentality here at home.

Mum and I spent a lot of time while driving listening to this cd. I also read some of the Tao Te Ching and found it so encouraging for dealing with changes, the unexpected, and for being more present with what was happening, not what I wished were happening.

Chinatown, San Francisco





idea for above as seen here
 

Japanese Tea Garden



Wednesday, March 3

Once more home.

breakfast


An early morning wakeup, some sweet orange tea, a paperback, two flights and a good-night's sleep in my own bed later, here I am. Home again. Tim picked us up at the airport with chamomile tea and had fresh baked bread waiting at home. The best!

I've got a packed journal, a full camera, and a couple dozen Polaroids to sort through. I've gotten my doggy fix, hit the library, gone for a walk. Easing back in slowly.

And waiting for me at the post office was this!

I am so excited about some of the images I captured and am looking forward to sharing some of them with you all. And thanks for all your warm comments this past week!





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Monday, March 1

Four Corners



Four Corners: Arizona, Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, 1998



A trip I took out west with my folks and my grandma. Grandma hiked to Delicate Arch with us. She was 76.





*photo by my mom