Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Terroir of Primavera

Dutch Lawn and Delft Blue


As we were hurtling across the Atlantic, leaving behind the end of crocus season and the ebullient present of daffodils, along with tulip buds full of promise; dreams of swaths of brilliant tulip color came to mind. Even the cool and drizzly forecast did not dim the anticipation.

But, as is true for every trip I've ever taken, there were surprises awaiting. 

In Amsterdam we were lodging just adjacent to a large park teeming with life: vegetative, avian and human. As soon as possible, we joined the crowd, carefully avoiding being overrun by exuberant cyclists. There were any number of possibilities for wandering and all of them were inviting with their verdant offerings. Taking the most obvious road (not the one less-traveled) I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of what I knew must be a Dutch Lawn. This is a generous planting of crocuses within a grassy lawn. I had read about it in a flower catalog and David obliged me by planting the collection of bulbs in our front yard. It is a real thing and on display throughout the park and beyond. I wasn't the only one who enjoyed this special lawn, a pair of Egyptian geese (though they looked more like ducks) and their goslings/ducklings seemed to be in residence. After this first sighting, we saw many more Egyptian geese couples on our stay. Clearly, this species has become naturalized like a bag full of daffodil bulbs. What we did not see was a brilliant display of tulip color. We were too early for that. 

There were inviting bodies of water throughout the park, lovely for fowl, flora and human wayfarers. Graceful willows swayed by the edges of ponds along with clouds of daffodils. The ponds were linked together in a similar manner to the roads and paths creating linked habitats. I kept seeing delicate deep violet flowers that David has planted at home. The scene makes me feel that our ancestry stays with us and influences our sensibilities and aesthetic choices for centuries. On the way to Amsterdam, we had stopped at the ancestral home of the Johnsons or Jansens and it looked like David!

While some of the first greens (the meaning of primavera) of the Netherlands were behind our first greens in Kentucky; other living beings quite at home in the Dutch landscape would be struggling for survival on my home turf. There were palm trees along the North Sea coastline, an unlikely pairing to me. In the park, I noticed birds with extremely long, narrow tails. The call of these creatures was loud, like a slow, imperative, cricket chirp. I was very curious about this bird. At supper, our daughter and son-in-law exclaimed over the abundance of green parakeets in the park. The next day, I was able to get a photo of the birds and realized that the long, narrow tail indeed belongs to the green parakeet. Apparently, the birds had been pets released into the park, where they have thrived. They made for a rather boisterous community. 

Green parakeets in Vondelpark, Amsterdam

It was a curious mix and yet a definitive setting. I appreciate the chance to be situated in a new-to-me place. Some things are the same (daffodils, crocuses). Some things are different (palm trees, green parakeets). Some things are familiar because David's people brought them over and they are now part of my life, like the tulips that David plants every year. 

What an interesting world, where people and flora and fauna adapt! And yet, the local soil, air movement and culture will have its way. Some things we can change and affect. Others we cannot. What a joy to experience a new place, to be curious and to learn.

And what a joy to come home with new insights and appreciations; to see where we have gained from an older culture and to see how a future culture can thrive as well.

David's tulips at home

Thursday, March 2, 2023

The Affectionate Month


I was determined to create work around love in the month of February. The month went so fast--it is like it is a couple of days shorter than other months! On the last day, I finished my project inviting people to make a love expression to the Earth. I suggested a multi-disciplinary creative approach using Haiku writing, music and collage. The main idea, however, was to create in what ever way desired expressing affection for our common home.

The word affection really struck me. What we are thinking about is not so much a romantic chocolate and valentines relationship. It is a long term, gentle but deep love. 

Now, it is March! It is not too late to show affection for our dear Earth. I offer here two videos. The first is my invitational video. You will find ideas and inspiration here for creating your own love note and a little bit of how-to with the invitation. 

And, to follow up, I have Love Under My Feet, my personal affectionate message to the Earth. 

I hope you enjoy these videos. Enjoy the green month of March!


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Happy New Year!

 I'm going to be using this blog to expand the reach of what I call Earth Song Offerings. These are video creations made from my original art work and harp improvisations and inspired by the seasons and our beautiful Earth. In short, Earth Song Offerings are seasonal meditations on our wondrous world. 

Reflecting on the season just past and finding myself in the 'drab' season, I made the attached video. And, I included a spoken part, so I'm calling this a Mirth Song Message. I hope you enjoy this--Happy New Year!

A Mirth Song Message

Friday, August 12, 2022

Be Beautiful!

It has been over twenty years ago that a former neighbor, standing by my dining room table and looking toward the front of the house pronounced, "Your home makes me feel beautiful." It was a surprising thing to say and I wasn't sure what she meant. My skills as a homemaker are moderate and I'm not fully committed to the idea of designing my space. Thus, through the years I've been pondering those words and have, from time to time understood a bit more of what my kindly neighbor was saying to me.

 Recently, I had the opportunity to submit art for a multi-disciplinary event centered around How to Be Beautiful by Silas House. Visual artists were invited to create art inspired by the short story. We were sent copies of the not yet published story and I read the manuscript carefully to fully picture the people, places and actions. The heart of the story takes place around a table with our narrator and three others seated there. My dilemma was how to place the four around the table in a way that was not awkward. I determined that the narrator would have to be 'off screen' but a natural solution to the composition was not arriving as I retired for the day. 

 As it happened, the next day was Holy Trinity Sunday. Our pastor* pointed out that the Trinity is about relationship and to illustrate this, we each received a copy of the Holy Trinity icon. As I gazed at the icon, I gasped (silently) because I recognized that my composition dilemma was being answered! Pastor fleshed out the idea of relationships being expressed through the Trinity. He directed our attention to the space at the front and center of the table, where the elements were placed, "There is room for you at the table." Well, yes. I began to see that the three people gathered at the table formed kind of a trinity, too.


Erin is Spirit, which is always available to us, driving us to where we need to go.

Flora is the Mother, who is well pleased with her Son, Caleb, who is able to see through the two young first-timers and know their truths. 

 This trinity of folk who happen to gather at the table make our narrator see the beauty in all the people surrounding him. Their belief in their own beauty allows him to understand that he is beautiful, too. 

I know that this was the alchemy which took place all those years ago as my neighbor stated her conviction of her beauty. It was not that my home was perfect, but that there were elements in place that were loved and appreciated by my family. Items that expressed our ideas of what is beautiful. We believe in beauty. My neighbor did, too. 

 Beauty is not a solo serving. It is a dish best served warmly and in relationship, in community.

* Pastor Doug Hahn is our Interim Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Lexington, KY. You are most welcome to join us!

Friday, June 24, 2022

Naked Eye Kith

Everyday Clover, Pelikan Opaque Watercolor

 This week I've been working on two little paintings that represent 'bodies' at different ends of the spectrum in scale and longevity. 

First, I returned to a favorite subject, clover. I appreciate the humble charm of clover which shows up mostly on its own and sticks around if it isn't poisoned. This year clover is blooming abundantly and I learned that young bunnies enjoy scarfing the blooms down. On the other hand, I have not spotted that many 4-leaf clovers. I guess the leaves are feeling secure in their ability to support blooms that they don't need to sprout extra. 

All month, I've been paying attention to the very early morning sky. For the first time in eighteen years,  planets of our solar system are lined up.  Mercury is closest to the horizon. Venus is up from there and Mars--which truly looks red--leads to Jupiter. Further up in the sky and not as bright, is Saturn. This week, the crescent moon added to the wondrous composition. 

It is a rare sight, and yet, one available to those willing to awake a bit early. Sometimes, when I am looking at the stars in the middle of the night--usually observing a lunar eclipse--I feel very small.  This is a proper perspective for sure as I am small in the big scheme of things! But, this month, as I've enjoyed regular encounters with these celestial bodies it has given me a sense of belonging. I belong to the Universe. Anyone who might try to kick me out is as small as I am. 

Mars & Moon, mixed media

Both of these modest projects are enriching my sense of 'kith', my home, my habitat. We don't know how much time we have on this Earth, but I know that it is some amount of time between a clover plant and a planet. I find joy that I can make a place among both.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Bruised Wood

The Bruised Wood, 16 x 20", mixed media on Arches paper

Over the past number of years I have been thinking about both visual and aural expression. This began as I was studying ways to use the harp to bring comfort. I became immersed in the consideration of how music affects us. I learned about modes and the special qualities they convey. This lead me to creating visual interpretations of the modes which I write about in my July 2015 blog, Art a la Mode.  Around the same time, I began to interpret my favorite musical compositions through paintings. Now, I have completed the journey and I'm creating very short videos, meant to be brief meditations. Starting with the meditation concept, I make paintings which are 'animated' through some development and using different lighting. On the harp, I improvise while focused on my painting.

The Bruised Wood is my first venture in this process.  I made it as a Lenten meditation and a lament for the state of the world. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Still Igniting, After All


Facebook reminded me of a post from two years ago. It was a good one that caused some reflection, I'll repeat it here:

    Yesterday, I had my annual exam, which included lab tests, so I had to fast and abstain from my usual coffee ritual. My morning social media session was still allowed. Unfortunately, I came across a post that declared something to the effect of Democrats Support Abortion through Birth! Absurd, of course. I thought this would be like saying that Republicans are only against abortion because they want school kids for target practice!  Obviously, not charitable thinking or true.

     In the dark, with the quarter moon just over my left shoulder, I set off for my appointment, on foot and in a frazzled mood. Runners were coming and going as I crossed the street. But then there was a change of pace. A young (it seemed) man with a curly mop of hair shining beneath the street light was walking in my direction on the other side. He was singing(!) I tuned in to listen. He was chanting! I couldn't make out the words until the very end when he sang of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen. I sang the 'amen' along with him. The tune was familiar. What was it...?

     Even without knowing the answer to that, everything changed. It was still dark, but the light was slowly embracing the landscape. By the time I came to the summit (the Young Library on the University of Kentucky campus) a rosy light was reflecting off of the tall downtown buildings. I walked up the road by a gaggle of dormitories and noticed a sign: Find What Ignites You--okay, I thought, too late for that, I'm more glowing embers now.

     I arrived at the clinic and had my blood drawn in the lab and then went upstairs for my exam. I had a little wait, so I took out a slim volume by J. Philip Newell, One Foot in Eden: A Celtic View of the Stages of Life. I had just started and was reading the chapter on Birth and Holiness. This jumped out at me: "The Celtic poet, Yeats, writes of 'the holy tree' at the heart of life, from which beauty and goodness spring. This way of seeing is threatened, he says, 'by the bitter glass' held up before our eyes by demons. If we gaze through that glass our eyes 'grow all unkind' and we see only 'a fatal image' within ourselves. To see the holy tree within, on the other hand, is to be freed to see life at its heart as good."* I was called back. My weight was measured and then my blood pressure: 112/73. Ahhhh.

     Later that evening. I recognized what the walking angel had been chanting: Veni Creator Spiritus. Indeed.

    I am struck by how this post was filled with foretelling guidance. Perhaps sometimes you can find your lost keys under the streetlight! I even found a lost key alluded to in the sign, that I didn't know was missing; I still have a reason to ignite and I am regularly fueling up my passion. And while the pandemic has been a true tragedy for the whole world, it did create the way from me to connect with the Bright Way Harp Circle. This amazing community has challenged me to create and to share my creating in ways that help and heal. A rush of fresh air brings a flame to my glowing embers.  The sign called to me: Find What Ignites You. And I have. 

* William Butler Yeats, The Two Trees