So I know you have been tossing and turning late into the wee hours, wondering why why why I never manage to update more than once a week despite my best efforts and I think it’s about time I told you the real truth.
The truth (which in fact is not so much the truth as it is an outright flaming blue lie) is that I am hard at work on my first novel titled Me by The Sea. It’s a dark and gothic tale about a bitter, brooding, blonde, navigationally challenged Canadian-American illustrator who journeys to the sea to investigate mysterious goings on of the sort which are mysterious and also, unnervingly, going on. Aided by her one and only friend, a one-eyed, one-legged, two-armed, six-toothed, half-witted sea captain named Phil, she discovers the true meaning of life, love and friendship and also that the big body of water she thought was the sea? Is actually a lake. A big lake to be sure, but not big enough to be called a sea. And further? That it is fresh water and that smell she was sure was all salt air and gull poop and therefore naturally curative of all that ails? Is actually ordinary lakeside air, tainted with the sweet tang of factory emissions from Buffalo, New York.
It’s sure to be a best seller, don’tcha think? And win all those fancy literary awards… the Booker, the Giller, the Nobel Peace Prize…. speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize, I loved this shot of a staggered Doris Lessing learning the news that she had won it from reporters gathered at her home. She had been out grocery shopping when the news broke and simply sagged to her stoop with the shock of it, groceries still in sacks. This is not the picture I liked best, but the only one I could find on the net (courtesy of The NY Times).
O, I had the most fabulous week last week full o’ vacationy autumnal goodness and love, but no time to tell you about it today. I know. You’re crushed. To make up for it, let me just point out that at long last I have secured a Flickr account. You can either find it via the sidebar over there to the right or by clicking here. You’ve probably seen most of the photos uploaded there at the moment, but I’ll be adding more, more, more as soon as time allows.
there was nothing “petite” about this baby, let me tell you**. The other day I discovere that there is a place in “my” park where they let out garden plots. And planted amongst the rows were these great stone blue cabbages, twinkling with dew. What marvellous things they are! They looked like they were made of stone, carved with deep almost monstrous veins. And yet there’s some amazing almost underwater delicacy to them too, the way they fan and curl. Wow. i’ll be back to check on their progress SOON!
•• for those of you not in the know, “mon petite chou” is a French term of endearment meaning “my little cabbage”.
This has been one weird up down and sideways sorta week. A lot of sad things have happened this week, not to me personally, but to people I admired (the death of comic artist Mike Wieringo, which I write about here on the Illustration Friday blog), friends, and total strangers on the news which have filled me with a heavy sadness that seemed to soak right to my bones.
And yet, oddly perhaps, this week has been full of quiet, triumphant joyful revelations about art and friendship and life and what it all means too. Sometimes those things just go together, i guess.
Today is crisp and cool and lovely. There is a hint of fall in the air, a promise of goodness to come. And a refrain from that old Eagles’ song keeps swinging thru my head… “I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling / I know you won’t let me down/ because I’m already standing/ on the ground…”
If it’s okay by you, I think I will just do a sort of photo blog for a while. June has been a whirlwind of activity, jammed with last minute to-dos and major have-tos, frazzled clients, a trip to NYC, and lots and lots of heavy duty creative thought. It’s all good, but babies… I feel like I could use three weeks to catch up to myself. I’m constantly surprised these days to catch a glimpse of my shadow right there behind me, attached to my heel like it always is. I feel like somehow it should be tagging back a week or two behind, scrambling to catch up. Do you know that feeling? Like there’s so much to tell you that I’m exhausted even before I begin. So I’m just going to begin here… with pictures. And maybe the words will follow.
Wandering around the park last week, it occurred to me that spring really arrives from the ground up. Other seasons, fall, winter… they arrive on the wind, are bourne of denim-bottomed clouds. Not spring. Spring begins as a green, underground tickle, yawning and poking up though the detris of all the seasons before, crinkled with sleep, but fresh and rested all the same. The forest bottoms are awash in curls of green, ground cover spreading up and over and completely, nibbling away the brown, seeping through the rough bark of the trees and being slowly piped upward to emerge as tiny trembling buds of chartreuse on the ends of tired branches.
the trilliums are popping up everywhere, but so far I’ve found only one in bloom… this one. By the end of the week though, the woodsy parts of the park will be carpeted completely in three lobed blooms. The trout lilies are already shyly nodding and I have become newly besotted and fixated on may apples. But more on that later. Now i must go snuggle with my doggity on my bed, all arrayed in new linen, and watch the sun sink to pink over the houses across the street.
I know, I know. As the darling Liz,* she of the near daily posting, pointed out in my last series of comments, I kinda abandoned you there. I really didn’t mean too. I had a post all planned for last Friday (which would have been titled Fashionista Friday) which would have featured pictures of my fancy new boots, but as it turns out, it’s kinda hard to take pictures of boots whilst you are actually wearing them. And whilst there is a mini blizzard going on outside your door, making the midwinter light that much dimmer. I did come up with another plan for the boot shoot, but by then I was outta time and I had to book it to Toronto to meet the hubby and some friends for dinner. Of course we picked the coldest, snowy-iest, windy-est day of the year to do that and the streets were a mess and the train was running a good 30 minutes late … but it was an adventure. And I got plastic animals in my drink so it’s all good. Saturday, I was gonna post, but somehow just couldn’t summon the energy. I blame the plastic animals. And then Sunday… well, even God rests on Sundays so….
And somehow now it’s Wednesday. Whirlwind workaday wednesday. Things are really beginning to snowball workwise ’round here. I’ve got so much on the go, so many deadlines to meet. February is going to be super busy and likely kinda quiet around the blog. I hope to get in here and update at least once a week though, so don’t abandon me completely!!!
*a-HA! I note with a kind of snide, exuberant triumph that even Liz, good faithful always with the posting Liz, is too busy to blog these days! Something in the air?!!
Monday morning, the sky wept icy tears into the break of day and glazed my world with a slick veneer of glittering ice. In the last three days, I have taken well over 400 photos and not one of them accurately captures the magic left behind. The park is full of glimmers and twinkles and dazzles. Absolutely everything is fluted in ice, every blade, every branch, every berry. Some times it appears roundly, soundly beaded. Other times serrated, branches lined with crystal viper teeth. Glittering straws of glass encase every shaft of winter wheat, bubbles encapsulate tiny leaves. The trees are dripping like chandeliers, coated over with streams of tinsel. It’s a fairy tale and it leaves me breathless.
As Finn and I carefully pick our way along the path, it shimmers and tilts in the most magical way. It’s the shimmer, the tilt, the phenomenon of light that I can’t manage to snap my shutter around. It completely eludes the camera lens. And after a while, the endless stream of adjectives stringing themselves across my brain slowly begin to tumble into silence. None of the words are adequate. The sun breaks from the clouds for a moment and I feel like a character in an English children’s book, transported into some magic realm inhabited by ice queens and winter pixies and stitched all over with silver. Hello, January.
A couple weeks ago. I bought a little bottle of Somnea Bedroom Mist from Fruits & Passion restfully titled “Essence of Dreams”. All tucked up in bed later that night, I pulled it out of my bedside table drawer and gesturing with the spray bottle, I motioned to Johnny Snoozefest to lift his pillow.
“Ack!” he shrieked. “What is that?!!”
Me: It’s bedroom mist. Lift your pillow.
He: (flailing his limbs defensively) Don’t spray me in the eyes! Ack! Ack!
Me: (rolling eyes) I’m not going to spray it in your eyes. It’s bedroom mist, not bedroom mace.
He: (eyeing me distrustfully) But what’s it for?
Me: It’s suppose to help you sleep better. It has essential oils. Look, it’s Essence of Dreams.
He: (snatching the bottle from me and reading from the label with archly raised eyebrows) The active fragrance of this mist combines the relaxing properties of Siam benzoin and sandalwood and lavendar essential oils to create ambience that’s highly condusive to your restful sleep…
Me: (smugly) that’s right. Restful abience. Says so right on the label.
He: Yeah, but it also says Siam Benzoin. What’s that? That can’t be good for you. It sounds all toxic. Like one of those chemicals that causes the evacuation of small towns and class action suits when a truckload of it overturns on the highway.
Me: (not willing to admit I have no clue what Siam Benzoin is) It’s not toxic. It’s restful. Sandalwood…mmmm. Restful! Essence of Lavendar…ooohh, my eyes are getting heavy! ooo.. essence of dreams, so nice!
dramatic pause while he blinks at me in that worried fashion that clearly indicates he is contemplating calling his brother the pharmacist and pressing him into immediately securing some kind of major medication to ward off the mental illness that has obviously seized me
Me: (exasperated) Just lift your damn pillow and let me spray this stuff so we can go to sleep!
He: (grudgingly lifting his pillow) Okay, but I really think the bedroom mist marketing geniuses made a mistake leading off with the benzonoid chemical crap.
Editor’s Note: he totally has a point there. I googled Siam benzoin the next day and it is apparently “a modern herbal with an agreeable odor recalling the scent of vanilla”, but it does sound kinda alarming and toxic. I think leading off with the lavendar and the sandalwood would have been more enticing.
But the next night, Johnny obliging lifted his pillow for his nightly mist without a word of complaint and by the third night, the little bottle of bedroom mist was residing in HIS nightstand drawer and he was doing the misting. It’s totally become our nightly ritual, the spritzing of the pillows and the grateful inhaling of restful ambience, ranking right up there with Finny’s midnight snack (three pieces of kibble which you better have on hand before you attempt to cajole her off your pillow and to the foot of the bed otherwise there is no way you are gaining access to your spot).
But up until last night, it was a completely silent ritual with no commentary from either of us. It was all bribe the dog, scoot into bed, switch the channel to Jon Stewart, lift the pillow, mist, mist and good night.
But last night as I lay blinking at the ceiling (Jon Stewart was in commercial) it suddenly occurred to me that Johnny Reluctant was totally enamoured with the bedroom ambience.
Me: Wow, you really love that stuff, huh?
He: (largely asleep) huh?
Me: the bedroom mist. You love it.
He: It’s okay.
Me: No, no you LOVE it! You have totally taken over the misting duties. You’re all about the misting! And after all that moaning and groaning and scoffing.
He: I did not moan and groan and scoff.
Me: You did! You were all Scoffy McScofferson. You were Sir Scoffsalot. You were all like “Toxic! eww eww! Don’t spray it in my eyes!!! eww eww!” (in shrill girly tones)
He: I was not like “eww eww!”
Me: You were too! You were totally shrieking.
He: I do NOT shriek, thank you very much.
Me: You were totally shrieking! Like a leeeeeetle girl!
He: yeah, right. Whatever. Go to sleep.
Me: Admit it! You like it! You like the bedroom mist! You love the bedroom mist!
He: It’s okay. I like it fine.
Me: No! You LOVE it! You totally love it!
He: It’s nice.
Me: Nice? Nice?!! I hate that word. You can do better. Tell me why you love it. Tell me! Tell me a bedtime story about the bedroom mist and how you love it.
Ed. Note: yeah, I know. So annoying. I can be just so annoying. I am particularly annoying when I’m all hopped up on accidentally imbibed caffiene and I know that I’m annoying you
He: (punching his pillow, knowing the only way out of this is thru it) Yeah, yeah … look, it’s nice. It’s good. I like to go to sleep in nice smells. Now go to sleep.
Me: No, tell me more! I want more! Tell me the whole story! Why specifically do you like the bedroom mist!
He: sighhhhh. You’re not tired, are you?
Me: Nope. Tell me!
He: What do you want me to tell you? I have no stories to tell you about my appreciation of the bedroom mist. There are no stories to tell. It’s nice. It works. I like it. End of story.
Me: Then make something up. You can do it, Duffy Moon! Make up a story.
silence. more pillow puching. And my hand rocking his shoulder, insistent.
Me: Tell me!
He: okay, okay. It reminds me of when I was a boy. in England. And I would fall asleep in the heather. And winds would blow. From the moors. The smell of heather in the moors. And Heathcliff. Out there. Wandering. Staggering. Drunk. Again. Hhhhheeeeeeaaaaathcliffffff…fff…ff…(tapering off to a thin ghostly wail)
I laughed for ten minutes straight. It might be one of those things that you would have to have heard to get completely, but it was HIGH-larious. Trust me. I still laugh out loud whenever I think of it and I’m not a laugh out loud laugher in general. I’m one of those freakish interior laughers.
Funnier still, is when I got up to go to the bathroom twenty minutes later (after I assumed that Johnny Stories had drifted off to sleep) and got back into bed, a very faint “Hhhhheathclifffff) drifted up from the prone form next to me.
Today, I laid back in a field of bleached grass and watched the weighty, denim bottomed clouds of November chase away the last of the October hues. The leaves have been shrugged off or snatched by the ice edged wind and the newly stripped trees look vaguely awkward and embarrassed. Not yet accustomed to the lack of cover, they stretch their skeletal fingers to the sky, yearning, scratching, pleading as they bend to the iron will of the season. The beauty of it is less brash, less obvious, but it is there if you know where to look… and I do.
Three days into the month and I’m deep in my mittens, shrugged into my puffy ski jacket, and the light is different, less forgiving. It never fails to amaze me how the landscape shifts with the light at this time of year. For awhile everything appears brittle, washed with the dry, rusty, dusty patina of age, as if left too long in the attic. And then a cloud scuttles overhead and suddenly everything is gossamer edged, backlit and magical. My eyes tearing in the cold, I watch Finny diving through the grass, hunting the mad scurry of meadow voles while milkweed “wishes” parachute overhead and I feel like we are the only two living beings on this planet. But the solitude of the moment seems tranquil and true, not sad. Like surrendering to long sought sleep.
Fog in November, trees have no heads,
Streams only sound, walls suddenly stop
Half-way up hills, the ghost of a man spreads
Dung on dead fields for next year’s crop.
I cannot see my hand before my face,
My body does not seem to be my own,
The world becomes a far-off, foreign place,
People are strangers, houses silent, unknown.
- Leonard Clark, Fog in November
You have to believe me, I’m magic…. See the toadstools there? I made them happen. I did. No, really. I did! Practically overnight. Okay, wait, backup… this is how it happened. So last year about this time (although actually I think maybe a little closer to Halloween) I found a patch off teeny weeny toadstools sprouting from an old willow in the park, the one that has the broken branch that looks exactly like a gargoyle, and I fell instantly in love with them. I love toadstools. They look like little fairy critter condos or something and I spend much more time than is probably healthy thinking about what it would be like to live in an itty bitty toadstool village. I took four bajillion photos of those itty bitty toadstools and though Johnny Shroomstomper thought that a bit obsessive, I’m awfully glad I did. Turns out it was a most serendipitous find, because when I returned the next day, they were all shrivelled and flopped over, as if their very souls had been stolen by Ursula the Sea Witch in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (remember? the little shrunken souls that lined the bottom of her lair, all wilted and wailing?). The magic was all used up apparently. Toadstool villages, it would appear, do not have a very long shelf life so maybe it’s just as well I don’t live in one. It seems a rather precarious real estate investment.
Anyway… that was last year and though I have been on the lookout, I have not seen anymore toadstool villages anywhere in the park. So about a week ago, I stood under that one particular willow (the one with the branch that looks just like a gargoyle) and sang it a very special mushroom song. I don’t remember exactly how it went, but it was something like “mushroom spores, mushroom spores, root and grow… mushroom spores, mushroom spores, put on your magic show…” and it probably went along to the tune “Smelly Cat” as written and performed by Phoebe Buffay of Friends fame as all my made up songs usually do for some reason, whether I intend them to or not. Either “Smelly Cat” or “Hooked on a Feeling.” Go figure.
And yes, before we go any further, I know! I KNOW! I am deeply, deeply weird. But in a friendly, completely non-serial killer kinda fashion, so it’s all good.
So I sang my song to the mushroom/toadstool free tree (what’s the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool anyway? Does anyone know?!) and two days later, an entire toadstool village sprouted up. It did! Really! I am sooooooo not making this up! I am completely magic! I am, I am, I am!!! Who knew?! The fact that my magic seems limited to conjuring very brief appearances of fungus in no way diminishes the delight I experience in having this wonderous charm, but I wouldn’t object if the Powers That Be saw fit to bestow upon me the ability to conjure up say money, chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream or peonies. There’s only so much employment for a Toadstool Whisperer, you know?
And it turns out that my magical mushroom song works not only on willows with gargoyle shaped branches, but nearby trees as well, because just steps away , I found a whole new patch of mushrooms/toadstools of a relatively gigantic variety, a hearty, pinkish variety. The picture up top is of one of those.
I took another five bajillion photos of the new patch of shrooms, and one of these days I will get my act together and post a set of the best ones in Flicker. I also took about five bajillion pictures of this the sight directly over my shoulder that was twitching and sniffing and imploring me to please, please, please step away from the fungus and throw something fetchable already.