Friday, August 29, 2008

A Nice Place to Play Frisbee

Perception depends on the viewer.
I see a confusing convergence of pathways, and I check the shadows for direction. My dog sees a nice place to play frisbee. She comes bounding up and gives my toy pouch a meaningful glare; does some frog leaps in place to ensure I get the point. I oblige and the games begin. I admire the benign pedatory display of chase, snatch and shake, and begin to take in the backdrop of gold speckled meadow nested within the forest. I'd been marching at a steadfast pace for an hour, slightly lost and pressed for time. Now, settled into the moment by the prompting of a dog I notice the late afternoon light and its strong lazy shadows, the flat blue of the sky and the pale glitter of a lone aspen.

Leap, snatch and shake--my dog sees a nice place to play frisbee--I finally see the beauty of the trees.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Everything under the sun...

Everything under the sun has been done. 6 1/2 billion people inhabit this world; how many millions have painted a sunflower? And why should I bother--Van Gogh did it better.
But this is my sunflower, grown in my garden, seeds laid by hand. It raised its pale fist to the sun under my watchful eye.
If I didn't paint it, who would?

Image: gouache on 7"x10" 140lb watercolour paper

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Lost Art of Mushrooming

We used to eat these--I think. My field guide informs me that it is a Straight-branched Coral (Ramaria Stricta) and poisonous. A long long time ago, when I was very small, I used to follow my dad through the woods. He'd have a big wooden strawberry basket in hand. He was the finder, I just followed. Anything branching and strange was fair game for the pot, as he would turn over leaves and find edible treasure. The corals were the best, fried crispy or slipped into stew and I can still recall their distinctive taste, sharp and spicy with a metallic tang. According to my Dad, they were all edible, and according to my palate, they were all yummy. My husband still recalls the incredible stews that my family introduced him to. Although he swears he hates mushrooms, the coral fungus stew was a notable exception. According to my current field guide, most of them are inedible, and the straight-branched coral (depicted here) is poisonous. Without my fathers presence, I'm less brave than I was and completely unwilling to experiment. Even then we knew there were discrepancies between the North American Field Guides and old European knowledge, much of which was passed down from fathers to their children. Lost now, is everything my father knew, and I can't retrieve it. Mushrooming brings back my fondest memories of my father, and leaves me missing him the most.

Image: gouache on 140lb watercolour paper. Upper left is the Common Fibre Vase (thelephora terrestris) and lower is the Straight-branched Coral (Ramaria Stricta). BTW, I painted the fibre vase because it's interesting and pretty. It's tiny and has a texture of shoe leather. No one would eat this.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Weed or Flower?

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? This year, something new came up in my front garden. It had fine curly needle leaves, a little like cosmos or dill. Since I didn't immediately recognize it as a thistle, dandelion, or other common weed, I left it to grow; sometimes only time will tell. By July it was 3' spray of dainty daisy-like flowers, hovering like summer butterflies over lacy fronds of green. I decided then that it was a 'keeper' but I still had no idea of what it was. I brought in a flower to help me browse through my field guides, and my closest guess is something called Mayweed, but I'm still not sure, as the guide describes it as smelling foul, and mine has no scent at all. The lack of scent seems to rule out camomile also, but it is so beautiful I haven't a care what you want to call it. It is now a garden treasure.

Image: Still life, 3"x5" watercolour on 130lb paper

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Queen of the Night

I spent a weekend with very good friends. They live in the woods on the North Magnetawan River in a cabin without running water, telephone or road access. During winter visits, we ski across lakes, rivers and islands to arrive at their home. In summer, we are ferried in via aluminum boat with a ten horsepower motor attached to the back. As always when it is hot, I arrived wearing a dress. This is a matter of comfort, not style, but as all my 'dog-walking' dresses where in need of laundering (due to muddy paw prints) I had to reach deep into my closet for something else. It was a blue printed rayon dress, plain in shape but full of stars and moons, and on account of my attire, I was thereby dubbed "Queen of the Night". The imagery was lovely, so I drew it.

Image: watercolour, coloured pencil, & wax crayon on 5"x7" sketch paper


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