Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Art for Heart's Sake

My friend Ethel Pochocki, who is an incredibly gifted poet, novelist, and children's author, just spoke with me about the creativity, satisfaction, and inspiration she gets from picking a flower and watching it unfold or canning her famous plum jam or pickling cucumbers (as she was doing when I called). She creates art not only when she writes, but also by the simple pleasures and beauty she can infuse into her daily life. Ethel believes in art for her heart's sake.

I want to introduce you to some of my favorite Maine artists, women who have filled my home with a playful vitality and a rainbow of brilliant colors. Their spirits, though intangible, are evident in everything they create.

Sara Hotchkiss-weaver extraordinaire. I longed for this runner rug for months. When my dear friend Lynn Karlin (award winning photographer-see her new book Gardens Maine Style Act II ) arrived at my cottage for birthday tea, she presented me with a long package. When I opened the gift, I found MY rug, the one I had yearned for. I couldn't believe my eyes. Now it warms my studio with its happy design, great craftsmanship and artistry, brilliant colors, and Lynn's friendship. Take a look at Sara's web-site! You will be amazed by the range and quality of her beautiful textiles.

Suzanne Norton's studio-gallery is chock-a-block with finished works and partially completed commissions. I love visiting her to see what new brew of ideas are stirring about in her mind. I've seen her work in many homes, from tables and chairs to chests, beds, and bread boxes, and also massive murals from elegant to playful.

Suzanne has done some great pieces for our cottage, and they all reflect our interests and style. My favorites are these two tiny, children's chests of drawers, which belonged to my beloved neighbors Jane Wagoner and Barbara Albret. Both chests are from their childhoods in the early 1900s. Before I sent them to be painted by Suzanne, my friends signed inside the drawers and included their dates of birth. Suzanne's web site is Her studio is at 72 Courtyard above Weatherbird (behind Main St.,Damariscotta)

Across the hall from Suzanne's studio is the atelier of Dana Moses. Dana's gallery brims with paintings and whimsical works painted on tin. Dana was living on a Caribbean Island when Hurrican Hugo hit and lifted tin roofs off houses and hurled them across the landscape. Tin was everywhere and, like the proverbial Phoenix rising from the ashes, Dana rose from what looked like a rubble heap. She began to salvage tin and cut it into magical shapes, which she painted with her signature joyful colors.

When I first walked into Dana's gallery, I knew that I wanted one of her pieces near the front door of our cottage to welcome our guests. Our cottage is called "Fox Drink Ledges" for the ocean front ledges that hold pools of rain water. Late at night and early in the morning, the shy red fox laps at the fresh water and nips blueberries from our bushes. I told Dana that I wanted a sign for our home that would convey our love of nature (and especially foxes). You can see that she did it beautifully incorporating the amber-eyed fox and blueberries into a vivid and fresh design, the hallmark of her remarkable creativity.

Dana is above Weatherbird at 72 Courtyard, behind Main St. in downtown Damariscotta, Maine. View her work on line at

I am always inspired when I see new creations or share new ideas. I hope that you will find inspiration in all the beauty.

Keep on creating, dear readers, and let your children have their own area in which to create their art.

Blessings to all,


p.s. Join me next week for our small, vintage kitchen remodel project in Maine.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September Sunshine on Damariscove Island

I am happily painting many new illustrations for my upcoming book. I try to blot out the loss of the last 238 and just forge ahead. In my California studio, I have a quote about the people who succeed. "You can tell by the long scratch marks on the wall that successful people hold on no matter what!" That's me, not necessarily successful, but stubborn. I just hold on and try to keep creating with the foremost thought of reaching and somehow touching the lives of children and their significant grown-ups. Wish me luck!

Saturday we traveled from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to Damariscove Island, which was settled in the early 1600s. Luckily for all of us, Damariscove was purchased by the Nature Conservancy and is now owned by the Boothbay Region Land Trust.

The only remnants of the early settlers are some fragments of china and glass, old pipes and metalwork, and the lovely stone foundations of barns and homes.

Later buildings (late 1800s), clad in shingles and silvered by the seasons, house the tiny museum and caretaker's cottage. My heartfelt thanks go out to the volunteers and Board of the Trustees–caretakers of both the past and the future of our Maine history and nature.

That is me, hiking the island, but taking time out to have a heart-to-heart talk with my tender granddaughter Sara, who called me with a pressing problem. I could be President of the U.S. and I would still let my grandchildren interrupt me anywhere and anytime. My pleasure and joy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Clean Sweep

The day before the tail-end of hurricane Hannah slammed into the coast of Maine was a blue and glittering light-filled dream. The wind sighed through the spruces, firs, and pines, and luffed my curtains like sails. For some reason, the approaching storm made me WANT to do some housekeeping.

I think that the late humorist Erma Bombeck would be proud of me. I opened all the windows on the ocean-side of the cottage, stepped aside, and let the wind sweep the floors and furniture clean. After fifteen minutes, I needed only a few brisk strokes of the broom to brush tiny windrows of dust, sand, and bits of leaves and needles out the front door and onto the forest floor.

I love this little cottage for its simplicity and purity. When I am here, I feel as though I am a wind-scoured seashell, both filled and emptied by the timeless cycle of tides and seasons.

Open your windows and pray for wind!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mermaid's Tears

The crowds have left Christmas Cove and now when I walk the small sandy beach by Miss Rumphius' cottage, I have my pick of the mermaid's tears (smooth, luminous sea glass) that shine through the seaweed and stones.

Nature's offerings, from crab shells, pearly mussels, bits of fragile, fern-like algae, rocks, and mermaid's tears, are an integral part of our simple, seaside cottage. Even on the coldest, darkest day, I can look at my bowls of treasures and smell the scent of summer, and see the shine of sunlight on the sea.