Life as I know It

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beach Walks and Firelight

Our first day of peace in Maine
I walked my favorite little crescent of beach where I always find mermaid’s tears and heart rocks. The bell buoy clanged, gulls looped across the sky, and a pair of osprey, who were adding twigs to their huge nest, whistled their piercing call. Heaven.

Tonight we were finally able to build our first fire in our new stone fireplace. Last summer was one of complete chaos–wall torn out, joists and sill exposed–to repair some damage that had occurred in the past 80 years. We needed to replace our old fireplace and after 3 months of hard work by a great stonemason, it was finished, BUT, he told us we couldn’t use it until it had properly cured. So we were without one of the most basic and comforting joys of living in an old cottage–evening fires that warmed not only our living room, but also our souls. Jeff caught me fire-dreaming as the first flames in our new fireplace flickered then caught. 

Last night, by the silvered light of a waxing spring moon, we hiked down toward Christmas Cove. The sounds of spring peepers chorused around us, and as we turned to make our way back to Little Harbor, a halo of lavender and pink surrounded the fattening moon. The end of a perfect day.
I’ve received dozens and dozens of wonderful letters and e-mails from you and your children in the past two weeks. I am so sorry not to be able to answer each one promptly (and that goes for the blogger comments too), but we don’t get reception here on the island until we hook up to our internet service in late June.
We will be here only four days before flying to Chicago for another Lands’ End event in Oak Brook, so we’re just trying to do assignments, get the cottage in order, and maybe plant seeds in a few of our windowboxes.
Please visit and leave me a comment and KNOW that I will answer when we return to California. Your words are priceless.
From Maine,
P.S. Check out my new blog posting with 7 other passionate gardeners from around America on Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Under the Pepper Tree

Ok, I'm not embarrassed to admit it–I will always be a child-at-heart, and I'm proud of it. This wonderful little faerie door (and it works) is a gift from Mimi Glavin, creator and owner of The Playful Garden in Napa, California. The door is situated over a hole at the base of our old pepper tree. Imagine the surprise of my grands when they visit and find this miniature world.

Joys to you,


P.S. Mimi offers these for sale in her shop.

P.P.S. Update from the road. In the Boston area, listen to Jim Zoppo, the Garden Guy, at 8:20 a.m. EST on WTKK, 96.9 FM, and in Chicago, the Mike Nowak Show between 8:00-10:00 a.m. CST on WCPT, 820 AM live on Sunday, April 25, 2010. If you miss the shows, check their archive for a podcast.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Twanging My Heart Strings

This is California's true gold. Tidy tips, Goldfields, Owl's Clover, and larkspur beside Soda Lake

Yesterday was a gift. Jeff and I worked until 3, then headed out the back roads to explore the offerings of spring. Am I ever glad we did. The recent rains have strewn the hillsides and meadows with carpets of wildflowers and scents that are sweeter than honey.  Meadowlarks perched on the roadside fences, like clothespins on a line. Their songs are SO amazing and joyous. Thanks to all of you who wrote e-mails and comments and told me to take some time off for fun.


Bush poppy

A floral gypsy

Delphinium in Owl's Clover

Prickly phlox

Chia sage

When I am immersed in our native plants, I wonder WHY I ever plant anything else, but I can't help myself–I love so many plants. Still, the natives twang my heart strings like no others.

It's easy to see why the common name is Larkspur

Scarlet Bugler

I thought our day was perfect, but had to amend it to beyond perfect when I opened my mail and found this lovely letter. Who could ever hope for a better compliment?

Leaving for Napa where I will give a talk at The Playful Garden at 11 a.m. on Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday at Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley. Our house sitters might as well move in here.

Remember to follow your joy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Be ignited, or be gone."

Drawing the winning tickets for the fabulous Lands' End garden totes and goodies. 
Suzanne Fedoruk and Katie Kiefer from the PR firm for Lands' End look on.

Good morning dear friends.

I'm feeling guilty. Today is beautiful with fluffy clouds, patches of blue sky, which we call "sailor's jackets" in Maine, and gardens bursting with new life. Where am I right now? In my own cozy bed, piled high with a down quilt, a sunny yellow blanket, my favorite Mary Oliver books of poetry, and my computer.

We left Minneapolis on Sunday, but our airline had overbooked and so it took us an extra day to get home. We were sidelined in Phoenix for 24 hours and almost didn't make it onto the next morning's flight. Had we not gotten onto that one we would've been stuck another day. I am so happy to be home and to have a moment of quiet and peace that I can't bear to move. Honestly, I DO feel guilty taking this time, especially after reading these precious words from Mary Oliver, "Be ignited, or be gone."

How do YOU handle all the stresses and tugs at your time? How do you bounce out of bed and face every day with vigor and enthusiasm? Do YOU ever feel guilty when you take time for yourself?  I think I am a positive person with a zest for life and a great love for what I do, but sometimes it catches up with me, nips at my ankles, and takes me down.

Jeff took a few videos of some of my television segments last weekend, also some shots of the wonderful Lands' End children's event in Minnetonka on Saturday. We had so many attendees, children from about age 3 to 13– lots of moms, dads, grannies, and aunts and uncles. Great participation and some awesome art projects by the children who decorated pots and planted Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds.

Dale, the "Garden Guy", on Fox 9 in Minneapolis

Belinda Jensen, NBC's host on KARE 11 in Minneapolis

Lands' End store in Minnetonka

Kids at the Lands' End store get to meet my "girls" in their "worm hotel"

Everyone who reads this post should get on line and register their favorite school for the Lands' End Million dollar give away. So many schools will benefit from this sweepstakes, but they must be registered to win.

I visited three fourth grade classes in the Minneapolis area

If you are in the Napa area this Saturday, please plan to attend my event at the whimsical and creative The Playful Garden at 11 a.m. or on Sunday in Berkeley at Mrs. Dalloway's, Literary and Garden Arts at 4:00 p.m..

Please let me know how you handle taking time for yourself. It will help me and hopefully many others.

All joys to you and yours.

P.S. Oh gosh, this week's post on Lowe's is actually an entry from my garden journal. I was so ticked off when my heirloom Speckled Swan gourds were gnoshed to the ground. Read my solution and also check for the video, which Jeff and I made last week. In it I share my secret for successful seed planting.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Will Work for Hugs!

Words aren’t necessary with this posting. This was the highlight of my weekend in Minnesota where I worked with Lands’ End to promote their million dollar giveaway to schools.
I met hundreds of creative children and dozens of families. I feel so lucky.
Until next week,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Travel East-Travel West-After all-Home is BEST!

Lovely vegetables on display at the Seed Bank in Petaluma, California. Grown from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (non GMO)

"Travel East
Travel West
After all
Home is Best."

A gentle rain is falling tonight, pattering onto the strappy ginger leaves outside my window. I  always welcome the rain, but I am happy that today it held off until after my grandchildren searched the garden for Easter eggs.

We celebrated with a traditional midday supper around our long farm table. When we were telling what we are grateful for, all I needed to do was look around at the faces to know what is so important to me. 

I am happy to be home after 8 days on the road. I spoke at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River, Oregon, and met some wonderful people there. I was particularly touched by the attendance of Gabby and her husband and newborn baby girl Corryanna. What an honor that they drove an hour each way from Portland to Hood River in a rain storm to attend.

After the talk and book signing, Jeff and I drove to Portland to prepare for ABC's AM Northwest television show with host Dave Anderson. One of my favorite blogging friends, Grace Peterson, told me that Dave is a hoot, a true comedian. She was right. He kept our segment moving along and spiced it up with his wonderful humor. Click here to watch the segment.

On the set of the AM Northwest Morning Show with Dave Anderson dipping into my Sensory Sack.

On our drives up Interstate 5 to and from Portland, we always stop at the beautiful and historic Wolf Creek Inn, which was established as a traveler's way station in 1883.  Many writers and actors have stayed at the inn during its 100 year history.

Doesn't it look like something you would find in Kentucky?

I took a break and watched the robins and jays tugging worms from the lawn.

The formal parlor at the Inn

 I was most touched by the tiny room where Jack London wrote part of his book The Valley of The Moon. I'm a sucker for traveling to author's and illustrator's homes, and this visit packed much more punch than I expected. It was also frequented by Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and many others. Stop there if you ever get the chance. They serve homey meals in the tavern. 

I could barely contain my excitement (Jeff says I didn't contain it) when I walked into the old Sonoma County National Bank building, which is now fittingly called The Seed Bank, in the heart of historic downtown Petaluma, California. What a great new infusion of life for both the building and the town.

Paul, the manager of The Seed Bank, gives me a warm greeting as I sign some of my books that are stocked in the store. What a treat to meet him and all his knowledgeable and caring employees. We're discussing the possibility of me giving a talk or doing an event in the store sometime in the fall of 2010.

Home just long enough to wash laundry and re-pack our bags, then off again to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I will be representing Lands' End in their "Way To Grow: Plant a Seed, Make a Difference" program. We're doing planting projects and nurturing the creative writing process with three classrooms of 4th graders. Saturday I'll be doing another television interview on NBC's KARE-11, and then working in the Lands' End Inlet in Minnetonka doing Earth Day projects.

Today (Monday) was a milestone for me. I did my 25th radio interview of the month (March thru today). This one was an hour with Karen Ellenbecker on her popular "Money Sense" on News Talk WISN 1130 radio in Milwaukee, which has been on the air for 20 years. Quite a feat nowadays. Why me? on Money Sense? She really loved Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars and decided to build an entire program around the book. The show should air this weekend. Tomorrow morning I'll be doing a newspaper interview with St. Joseph News Press in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Sending out love and best wishes to all of you who have made my life richer with your friendship and understanding. Remember, HOME is best.

P.S. Please check my Lowe's blog, with my other garden writer friends from around the country, for the solution to a pesky garden problem, and leave a comment. I value your thoughts.