strawberry moon

Tonight my brother called and invited me to pick my own strawberries.  His patch has reached the point where it’s scantily filled and not worth hiring labor to pick it.  So, at dusk I went to take a look.  He told me that the end of season berries are the best.  He was telling the truth.  I ate the first strawberry I picked and it was the best  I had ever tasted.  His fruit has the added benefit of being organic, making the flavor even more intense. I picked until it grew so dark I couldn’t tell which ones were spoiled. …

subject matter

The newest piece on the easel is a large painting I started a month ago.  It’s been a slow and delicious process bringing this piece together.  It’s slow, because I’m using tiny brushes on a large surface to create the kind of texture I want.  It’s delicious because it’s about very early spring and the colors involved have the aura of magic about them– delicious because it reminds me of earlier times.  Its edge is its subject matter.  It’s a painting about a barn.  I tend to shy away from barn painting because that subject is so hackneyed and sentimental …

Small pleasures

An unusually deep snow fell here over the weekend.  It greeted the beginning of the weekend–starting just a few moments after I left school, and quickly and magically covered my whole world.  I stopped for provisions, filled the woodbox before dark fell, and planned to be forced to relax, eat well, and paint for a few days, without interruption. All that happened.  The days that were gray made the woods look soft and mysterious.  I’ve been challenged, in my paintings, to figure out how to represent the dove grays of the woods– so thick that no light shows through–tiny limbs …

The Party of the Season

I would never have predicted that the Party of the Season would be tonight–with my family– in “the deep midwinter”.  But it was. My brother and sister in law, Grier and Kim, threw a party tonight on their farm, while my family was all gathered for the funeral of my dear aunt,Betty.  It was a party full of good will, humor,and reminiscence.  I don’t expect to see its match for a long time– until we are all gathered again.  Tonight would have been the 50th birthday of my cousin Homer Harris Ragan– Hobey.  He died at 48 of lung cancer. …

New Day

It’s a new day in a new year, beginning a new decade.  I’m grateful for that.  We talked today, at Kim and Grier’s table, over blackeyed peas and collard greens, about how we all, in our own ways, managed to miss the clock turning over.  But I think we all felt keenly this invitation to newness and change. I marked the close of last year by writing out my intentions for the coming year.  This is much more productive than making resolutions.  I’m bad at resolution-keeping.  But if I name an intention it rides around in  my unconscious mind all …

White Christmas

A snow day in the balmy North Carolina of global warming times is a rarity.  I have always loved this experience.  The highway grows quiet.  The wood stove snaps and pops and talks back, baking one end of the den.  The cat sleeps the whole day.  Crystals are on all five million tiny tree branches.  Black crows come out to bring some contrast.  If I’m up early, the sky throws in some color– pink and yellow.  This year it’s happening just before Christmas. In North Carolina these rare snowfalls are considered excuse enough to retreat and give in to hot …

lost shelter

Driving by my house on the way from school to an appointment I was shocked to see that the oldest tree in my yard had come down in Wednesday’s hard winds.  The trunk still stands, but the yard is filled with the top,  limbs larger than most mature trees. This oak had been struck by lightning 40 years ago, and hit squarely by a truck in the late 70’s, in a brutal accident that killed the driver.   It had survived Hurricane Hugo eighteen years ago, losing a giant limb, but it stood otherwise intact.  Its six ancient  companion oaks had all toppled …

In Praise of June

July is brand new but it’s hard for me to let go of June in Carolina.  It’s the month I wait for all year… roses, lightning bugs, tomatoes, yellow sun, swimming, painting all day. The other night I woke up and opened the window.  The night sounds that burst into the room  made me stop mid-motion, holding onto the window frame, my mouth open in sleepy enchantment.  There was, surrounding my house, a web of sound,  an intricate woven form with nubs, holes and rhythms. To capture the best of the Carolina June day I’ve been getting up at six …

Painting water, eating corn

Today I’m painting the swirling patterns in a creek bed.  The last time I actually looked at those patterns was back in March, so at this point they are no longer observational, but instead an abstraction meant to create a mood in the viewer—the mood you’d find yourself in if you were standing in a voluptuous body of water and it moved around you in small surges and eddies.  And the sun was beaming down on it to add hypnotic patterns all around.  That’s some pretty vaunted prose for what I actually turn around and see on the canvas.  There …

the kitchen

A couple of months ago I moved an easel into my kitchen. It seemed like I would get more work done in the evenings if my easel was in a cozy comfortable place. Sometimes, like a child, I don’t want to walk out across the dark yard to go to my studio. I want to stay in the warm light of the kitchen. This kitchen was first the domain of my great-grandmother and then my grandmother. I remember sitting in its warm light as a child, on top of a phone book, so I could reach the table. I also …