Life as I know It

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"An Enormous Suitcase full of Magic"


"It's like you're around with this enormous suitcase full of magic and you are never allowed to open it because the rules say that the things in that suitcase are not worthy of artistic consideration.

Worlds, childhood memories, pretend, fantasy, archaeology–all that. And so, until I could open that suitcase, I didn't really have anything to work with. It was like trying to paint with your hands tied behind your back."

Melissa Zink

Melissa Zink was a New Mexico artists who thought of artists as "miners and explorers," which is so true. Her work was fantastic. I enjoyed some of it in galleries and some at the Museum of Art in Albuquerque. Her words about the "enormous magical suitcase" were printed on a small card that hung near her creation.

Hello dear friends,

I am home in California and have worn myself to a frazzle working in the garden (what joy!). Topping beds, spreading manure, planting, watering, fertilizing, and just plain enjoying the beauty, the butterflies, and the birds...oh, and a troupe of new baby alligator lizards. Fabulous!

Jeff is helping me weed and top all the beds with mulch and straw (not hay). Next week I'll plant chard, broccoli, cabbage, and lots of herbs. This little birdbath belonged to my Gramma Nonie Clarke. I treasure it as do the Hermit thrushes who visit late in the afternoon

My grands visited, tugged rainbow carrots out of a tin washtub and declared, "Ummm, these are candy." They harvested tomatoes, thyme, guavas, and Pink Lady apples. They sat around our candlelit table and shared an "unbirthday" surprise party with their Grandpa Jeff, and they filled our home with laughter and the simple discoveries of childhood. Hurrah!

This is really a post about creativity. I always love to visit artists in their studios and see if they live their lives creatively, not only in their works, but in all aspects of life.

Fat pieces of chalk are kept nearby for those fleeting moments of inspiration.

Recently we got a peek into the home of two creative people. Their kitchen was my favorite place. Let me share their very un-kitcheny great wall of art. All it took was a can of blackboard paint, some fat, colorful chalks, and creativity. I have one small wall in the kids' room that I could use. I think they'd love it.

Nobody can walk by without stopping to enjoy (or add to) this dynamic wall. Love the calendar.

A rainbow zebra

A close-up

The "Great Wall" of Damariscotta, Maine

This is a short one, but I have so much happening here it is a wonder that I could sit down and do this today. The garden calls...


P.S. Bird lovers come visit the new blog posting on Lowe's Creative Ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Morning Tea with the Loons

A few mornings ago the soft tremolo of loons woke me. I sat up in bed, saw the most amazing sunrise, and ran out to the porch to take a photo. The loons called, I called back, they called again, I made my attempt to call just as they did, and they paddled in close to the rocks and woof, woof, woofed quietly to me.

The loons leave the inland fresh water lakes and arrive in John's Bay during September. They usually arrive in pairs (they mate for life), but this year a group of three showed up and they stay very close together. When one paddles too far away, or disappears in the trough of a wave, they begin their soft woofing and looking for the missing bird. I never tire of watching them scull through the water, sometimes with their heads submerged, and then they disappear in a wave and bounce back up hundreds of feet from where they dived.

Jeff and I always eat our breakfast on the porch unless driving winds, salt spray, and rain keep us indoors. This time of year, as our days edge closer to leaving, we make our meals last longer and longer. We take such joy from talking with the loons and seeing how curious they are about us.

Tea for us, coffee for Virginia, toast and cereal with a helping of leftovers for the squirrels, chipmunks, Blue jays, crows, and chickadees.

This morning, after two days of heavy rain and winds, our dear friend Ginny dropped by and ate with us. None of us could believe the size of the waves, the warmth, the beauty. Ginny said, "I am so grateful to be here." We feel the same way.

The Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta was a HOOT! Here are some of my favorite pumpkins, but I am missing some. The one carved by the DeLisle family is great, but when I went to photograph it the mold (from all our rain) had started to form all over it.

Wedding cake pumpkins (see the cake topper?) with books of love sonnets around base.

Outside the bookstore

Debra Arter's teapot.

The little tag on the map says, "you are here."

This is one panel from the pumpkin above.

Another side of the one above.

Humpty Dumpty Pumpkin from artist Susan Bartlett Rice.

Outside Skidompha Library

Inside Porter Hall the contenders are lined up and ready to go. Ginny and Michael are two of the judges.

The four judges pondering the choices (did we ever get sugar highs!)

The cake won first prize of $150.00 and a trophy. I would love to share the recipes, but the contestants did not want to give up their secrets.

The winner of the giant pumpkin contest is smaller than the winner last year, but we had strange weather here all summer and many pumpkins rotted on the vine.

I can't describe the wonderful community spirit of the festival. We had a pumpkin regatta (giant pumpkins hollowed out and were used as boats), we had a pumpkin drop, a pie eating contest, and a parade. On a side street volunteers had pumpkin activities for kids. This small town life is a joy.

I have been out of touch lately and I apologize. So much going on here and now we are packing up for the season. I do not want to leave here and am trying to absorb as much of this beauty as possible. I will try to catch up when we return to California. Promise.

The winner of the Grimy Hands Girls' Club Give-Away of Planting the Dry Shade Garden by Graham Rice (Timber Press) is Lemon Verbena Lady, Nancy Heraud. Congrats dear Nancy!!! 

Although I normally only post once weekly I plan to post an amazing art wall I saw in a home in Damariscotta. It is do-able, fun, and creative. I'll post it the day before we leave here.

Sending love across the miles,


The Harvest Moon rising over the Eastern Gap in South Bristol, Maine.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pickles and Publishing

First thing in the morning and the last thing at books, my friends.

Dear Friends,

We are back from our trip to Florida where I gave a short course at the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association's "Landscape Show." The event was wonderful and filled with great displays, products, and classes. Best of all though was getting a chance to visit with old friends landscape designers and authors Kristin and Stephen Pategas, ASLA. What a treat to wander their gardens, visit their personal nursery, explore the garden room, and linger over one of Kristin's great meals. Check them out on Hortus Oasis and you'll get a taste of their style.

I am bundled up to my earlobes although I am sitting INSIDE our cottage in front of a roaring fire. The skies are clear and star flecked, the moon is waxing, and the temperature is going to drop into the low 30s tonight. Not bad you say?? Well, this old cottage is not insulated and is often colder inside than out. We still eat breakfast and lunch on the porch, but I am usually wrapped in blankets when we're out there.

Low tide seen through our friend's windows.

We were so happy to attend the annual Pickle Contest and Judging at the River Grille in Damariscotta.
After the judging, the attendees were allowed to sample everything. Wonderful.

Activities like this are some of the true joys of living in a small town.

On Risk and Writing and Being Courageous About Putting Yourself Out There

"How quickly the minutes fly when you are writing to please your heart. I pity those who write for money or for fame. Money is debasing, and fame transitory and exacting. But for your own heart...Oh, what a difference!"

The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin 
by Anaïs Nin
Entry dated October 1921

My last posting about risk and writing has generated so many e-mails and questions. Since I haven't been home, I have not had the chance to answer everything, so allow me to post some answers here that may help you a bit.

Re: Writing Groups and Critiques

We do have rules, and then we also have simple rules of etiquette. Be kind, but be truthful. If you're not, the editors will be, and you will feel like someone ran you through a shredder. It is essential that you submit a polished piece. Don't expect the editors to clean up your grammar or figure out what is wrong with your plot.

Keep the size of your group small enough to allow at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted reading and 10 minutes of critiquing per person.

Choose a moderator for the meeting (usually the person hosting the meeting is the moderator). The moderator will keep the meeting on schedule and will time readings and ask for comments.

Provide hard copies of what you will be reading. Fellow members will be able to jot notes and suggestions on your copy. If you do not have the ability to make copies of your manuscript for everyone, then provide notepaper for critique notes.

Never interrupt a reader. Wait till the last word is uttered and the moderator asks for critique.

Stick with business. You're there to read from your work-in-progress, NOT to discuss personal problems.

Provide guidance, not personal opinions, about plot, characters, etc. You're acting as a friendly critic who wants to help a hopeful fellow writer get published.

Allow time in the middle of the meeting for refreshments, announcements about rejections and acceptance of manuscripts, and for marketing news and updates on the publishing industry.

When a member attends a writing conference, set aside some time to find out what was of most value to the attendee. What one learns will benefit you all.

Sign up for Publisher's Weekly Daily and Publisher's Lunch on the internet. They're invaluable sources of publishing information.

Join SCBWI if you are interested in writing for children. They're great and nationwide. You can attend conferences, network, meet editors, marketers, public relations people, and fellow authors and illustrators.

Those are the answers to some of the questions you've asked, but feel free to write if you have more.

THE LUCKY WINNER of The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life is Suzanne of Privet and Holly! Hurrah! She really wanted to win this. Suzanne dear, Sellers Publishing will ship this directly to you.

The next few days will be consumed by the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest, which I shared with you last year. I'll write about it and post photos next week. This year I will again be a judge at the pumpkin dessert contest. Just what I need!  It is so much fun and the desserts are beautiful. See  my old posting about the Pumpkinfest and contest to get a sample of its flavor.

Please stop by my newest Lowe's blog posting for a glimpse into my garden. I love your comments and appreciate your input. (P.S. I just checked my Lowe's blog and it still has my ideas for landscaping around hardscapes. They have just hired someone new to manage the blog and will post my newest writing on landscaping for BIRDS next week).

Thanks for the visit. This was a short one, but life is speeding past, and I am running to keep up. Our days are dwindling here, and I try to extract an hour and ten minutes out of every hour that passes.

Sending love and the image of some Maine grown Jacob's Cattle beans.



 Leave one of your comments on this posting before October 15 and you will be eligible to win the new book, Planting the Dry Shade Garden (Timber Press), by great writer Graham Rice. It is a wonderful book and for those of you faced with the problem of dry shade gardening. You'll find lots of solutions in Graham's book. Grimy Hands members only.

A huge thank you to my dear friend Susan at My Mother's Apron Strings

My chickadee apron is PERFECT. I am such a slob when I cook...I promise to try and keep it clean. Susan dear, I will be thinking of you and your sweet Kelly on the 8th.