Life as I know It

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fox Kits and Tea Time

Ask me about my favorite things to watch in nature, and I would probably answer-fox. They're my good luck animal, and I usually see one, or at least catch a glimpse of one, on my birthday.

For half a year, we had a vixen who slept outside our window. She curled up like a fiddleneck fern with her bushy, white-tipped tail covering her nose. When we walked past our window or wandered outdoors, she lifted her head and watched us or trotted over to the area where we worked. Nothing escaped her notice. Late, on cold autumn nights as we walked the island, she ran along beside us crashing through the dried grasses and looping around us like a pup.

Today, we attended a class held at a late 1700's saltwater farm. As our leader spoke to us about the geological history of the land, we saw a small, pointy face with large black-tipped ears pop up above a hummock of grass. We trained our binoculars on the darting flash of russet, which was quickly joined by another and another–three kit foxes, who frolicked, jumped, and sprinted around the newly mown field in search of mice and voles.We watched them 'til they disappeared behind a hill.

The skies darkened, a few drops of rain fell, and our class disbanded. We walked toward our car, but didn't want to leave before we hiked the milkweed trail to the fox field. Within a few minutes, we found the entry to the fox den, but left quickly so as not to disturb them.

As we headed up the hill, we spied two of the kits just as they saw us. One ran, tail outstretched, white tip flashing a warning, as the other stopped and looked us over.

A perfect day. The fox kits, the giant waves thundering against the ledges below our cottage, and a cup of afternoon tea on the porch.

From our little green island,


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Porch Love

I love our porch. Morning, noon, or midnight, it is the best place to sit, listen, watch, and savor the beauty of Maine.


Moonlit Night

Enjoy the blessings of simple pleasures,


Friday, August 14, 2009

Dog Days of Summer & Happy Birthday Julia Child

The cold, wet weather finally turned, and we have our typical Dog Days (aka tomato days) of summer coaxing plants and vegetables into production. I love to visit the small gardens of Stonewall Kitchen in York, Maine any time of year, but especially now, when the gardens are at their best.
Jackie Noonan, their innovative and devoted gardener, groups vegetables and flowers in a power-packed parade of color and texture. I especially love her giant pots of kale with chard, and her fabulous Striped-Leafed Japanese corn.
Next spring, I am going to use this corn to make a whimsical hide-out in my backyard.

Stonewall's cooking classes ( are held in this great room with every imaginable convenience. Their schedule this time of the year is jammed with great classes taught by their knowledgeable staff or guest chefs. I wanted to attend the line-up of classes during Julia Child Week, but they were sold out.

Friday is Market Boat day at Christmas Cove.
I tote my basket to the town landing and wait for the sound of David Berry's old school bell.
The brass bell once belonged to his grandmother, and David uses it to signal to the shoppers that he is on his way. Soon his Long Island Sound oyster boat pulls up to the landing and I fill my basket with his great offerings.

In honor of Julia, I'll just sign off with bon app├ętit!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Road to Miss Rumphius' House

In June, the roadsides near our cottage are crowded with spires of lavender and pink lupine that shine against the dark backdrop of tall firs, spruce, and pine. The beautiful lupines aren't native to Maine, but were hand seeded by Hilda Hamlin, a retired professor of English who lived just down the road from us in a shingled cottage perched high above the sea.

Hilda Hamlin became the inspiration for beloved illustrator-author Barbara Cooney's book Miss Rumphius, who was also known as the Lupine Lady. In Miss Cooney's book, we travel the world with Miss Rumphius who finally returns to her family's summer home.

I won't give away the story if you haven't already read it, but I will say that the moral of it is something we should all take to heart. "Do something to make the world a better place." It doesn't have to be something huge like a world summit–it can be something tiny and filled with life and promise like a seed.

Oh, and if you're thinking of being your neighborhood Miss Rumphius, grace your roadsides with native wildflowers. You can access suppliers of annual wildflower seeds suitable for your area by checking into the supply lists of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at They'll list the right species of seeds for your area.

Small Blessings,


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Heavenly Blue Morning Glories in Maine Fog

Two of the (zillion) things that make my heart sing are sunflowers and Heavenly Blue morning glories. They're the plants that form the walls and roof of the sunflower house I first wrote about in 1991. I can't grow a sunflower house on the thick stone ledges that surround our cottage, but I CAN grow them in pots on our porch and have done so for the past 14 summers.

Usually the chipmunks or squirrels feast on the sunflowers JUST as they're forming, but this year they've escaped their normal fate of total destruction and have helped feed a family of goldfinches. My morning glories bloom in September, but this year, as though they know I won't be here in September (yes ,I realize that morning glories can't KNOW this) they've already started to bloom.

Azure, the color of "Sailor's jacket's," the brilliant patch of blue sky between clouds, greeted me this foggy morning as I glanced out my studio window. Memories flooded in, like the tide flowing into John's Bay from the wide Atlantic. I remembered my dear adopted Gram, Gladys Marie McKinstry in Kokomo, Indiana. Gram grew a trellis of Heavenly Blues outside her kitchen door every summer. I can still see the luminous blue with a red bird perched inside the thick tangle of vines.

Blessings from a foggy green island,