Life as I know It

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kindle Some Passion for the Little Things in Life!

Some passions, like mine for lichens, never die. I first began to explore the tiny world of lichens in 1969. Oak moss lichen, above right,  is often used as a fixative in pot pourris.

Was I ever really that skinny? This is my journal from that time, which was an exciting one. We took a 28,000 mile nature trip up, down, round and round America, exploring every nature stop, birding area, refuge, and campground we could find. We had a book called See America for Free, and since we were young and poor, that suited us fine. 

A close-up of my favorite lichen, British Soldiers.

We bought a brand new Volkswagen van, converted it into a cozy camper, and set off for our adventure. Along the way, I drew and painted things I loved, and we took photos and wrote in our journal every day. It was on this trip that I discovered British Soldier lichen, first in New Hampshire, then Maine, and Connecticut. I fell in love with their tiny world. From that time to now, the passion still remains. I can't pass by a rock or log, tree or fallen branch, without stopping to examine and enjoy the beauty and diversity of lichens.

I hope you will kindle some passion for lichen too. You'll discover lichen nearly everywhere– from the Sahara desert to the Arctic, from rocks to buildings and trees. Now pick up a magnifying glass and take a walk. You're sure to find some of these ancient tapestries.

When Jeff and I were in England's Lake District, doing research for a children's book, we were able to view an entire collection of lichen and mushroom paintings (at the Armitt Museum) done by Beatrix Potter, who was not only an illustrator, but also an amateur scientist. Beatrix did amazing work into the science of lichens. Although she was not allowed to present a paper on her work (she was a woman, after all), she is now recognized as a luminary in the field of scientific illustration and studies. In 2012, she was celebrated by the prestigious Linnean Society of London for her work with fungi and lichens. Finally.

I've included a few of my favorites for you to enjoy. These photos were taken in a wonderful class sponsored by our local chapter of the California Native Plant Society in San Luis Obispo, California.

This is a sampling of some types of lichen, from foliose, which has two sided foliage, and fruticose, which is shrubby, to the crusty looking Crustose, such as the lichens on the surface of rock above.

You can see why this is called Lace lichen (top) or Fishnet lichen. It is often mistakenly called Spanish moss, but it is a lichen, which is distinctly different. A lichen is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae. This lichen festoons trees like veils. It DOES NOT injure trees, but it does offer nesting fiber for birds, food for deer, and it traps fog moisture and slowly drips it onto the soil, thus watering the trees. Native Americans gathered quantities of the lichen and used it for diapers. Take about recyclable, but ouch.

Jeff sits at the end of our table of lichens. 

This foliose lichen is often found on conifers.

Perfect name for this one. Viewed through a hand lens, it does look like teensy cobblestones or tiles.

Yep, perfect description. See the little red dots?

Before I end this posting, I am thrilled to offer this early copy of Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman's new organic gardening and cook book, The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook (Workman Publishing). I have spent hours going through the pages and copying recipes for the future. You'll love this book. Just leave a comment on my blog, and you will be eligible for the drawing. Grimy Hands Girls' Club members will also receive an extra surprise gift if drawn. I devoured every page. Take a look at some of the interior shots, mostly photographed by Barbara.

Delicious photographs

Leave a comment and keep your fingers crossed.

And the lucky winner of the antique bird nest and egg print in glass is...Rebecca of A Gathering Place.

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. I want to thank so many of you for unexpected cards and gifts. Susy Stone, I love your paper bird, and have now made almost a dozen. This is a great project for children. So simple even I could do it.

Nellie Bragg, your card meant so much to me.

Patsy Lee Anderson, I love your handmade bookmark.

Thank you all for your e-mails too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Day!!

Dear Friends,

Do something special for yourself and your loved ones. Happy day!

All joys,


Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Contentment. Such a sweet word.

How do we achieve it? By focusing on small pleasures and victories, by not having expectations that can crush and disappoint us. By accepting others as they are and not trying to change them. By being ourselves. (You DO KNOW yourself, don't you?)

Lend yourself to your chores. Enjoy the process and don't focus on the outcome. (I wouldn't write and illustrate books or garden if this weren't true!) Take time to stop and really look around you.

See the beauty in the bedraggled. Don't unexpected harvests taste better?

Savor bounty and be grateful.

Take time to absorb the beauty around you. Sometimes it is easier if you choose a few things you love and put them in a place of honor. You'll be more likely to notice displays that are changed frequently.

Share a meal with friends. Love makes the best meals.

Make a special (tiny) bouquet for each guest. Tap into the language of flowers and add rosemary for remembrance and friendship.

A walk, even on the coldest day, will yield the promise and hope of spring. These twigs should burst into a galaxy of blooms in about a month.

A big bunch of herbs for use and for delight. I never take these old "friends" for granted.

Many California natives bloom in winter. Manzanita (white/pink blooms), hummingbird sage (with dark pink blooms), Ceanothus (blue), and native willow.

I send love across the cold miles.


P.S. Be the lucky winner of this charming, glass, bird's nest plaque, which measures approximately 7 x 10 inches.  Just leave a comment and keep your fingers crossed. I'll draw a winner in about a week.