Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Cairn

I painted a winter scene for today's blog, but it ended up bumming me out because quite frankly, I just don't want to see a winter landscape inside when there's still too much of it outside. So... I decided to paint a cairn.

There's something very comforting about a pile of rocks. I called this Spring Cairn because as I was painting it, I imagined the beach where I frequently build them. I'm also hoping it will mark the beginning of real spring here in Maine. What have I got to loose - what's the risk? Who knows - it may actually work.  I'm desperate.

Spring Cairn • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, March 24, 2014

Snow Night

When I was a kid, lots of snow meant no school. The "snow day" represented a whole lot of time messing around creating and destroying a whole lot of stuff. Wars and sliding would leave no mark unless someone misfired on another's eye, got busted up on or by an invented sliding apparatus, or caught a chill from being in clothing not built for kids hyped up on primal adrenaline for hours on end.

To celebrate the memories of all of those snow days of the past, here's a poem by Billy Collins I found and love. After a lifetime of thinking all fun stops when the sun goes down, this painting is an appreciation for the other side of the snow day (which needless to say I did not have as a child), the snow night.

Snow Day

By Billy Collins


Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,   
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,   
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost   
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,   
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,   
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,   
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.   
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,   
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,   
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,   
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School   
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,   
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,   
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,   
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.
The Snowy Night • 8" x 8" gouache framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Equinox


Spring in the northern hemisphere begins when the sun moves north of the Equator, which is usually on March 21, though it could be March 20 or 22 some years. It's when the length of day and night are equal.

In Maine however, spring begins when it damn well pleases, so it's an especially tricky time of year. We can very easily walk in to the deep end of desperation if we don't have our wits about us. And after this winter, many of our wits are still stuck under three feet of snow and ice.

No need to debate global climate change or harken back to those Ozzie and Harriet springs of the past, both of which make it all seem worse. All we have to do is acknowledge that we are experiencing a very typical mind body split. We mentally know that spring arrives this week - the planets don't lie, and that our bodies are telling us we are still very much in winter - and we know our bodies don't lie. Simply accepting this concept will save what you have left of your sanity.

Spring Equinox • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, March 10, 2014

Full Moon Faerie Dust

Cross country skiing through the countryside during a full moon in Maine is special. Moisture particles drift through the air shimmering like faerie dust when they catch the light. It's so quiet that you begin to wonder if you are still among the living.

And then a single twig snapping somewhere in the dark reminds you that things of an other-wordly nature are always lurking about out there at that late hour - prompting a fleeting moment in time when nature's most magical aligns with its most terrifying.

Full Moon Fairy Dust • 8"x8" watercolor framed to 12"x12" • $200

Monday, March 3, 2014

Totally Irrelevant

As you can tell, I spend a lot of time trying to balance out real-life worldly events - which can be incredibly depressing - with noodling forays into subjects that are totally unimportant. Take bunnies for instance.  I was surprised to see bunny tracks in our driveway in Kingfield this past month - had never seen them up there before. It suddenly occurred to me that we see fox in the field quite a bit, and where there are fox there are most likely bunnies. I then realized that I know absolutely nothing about these critters, so I went on another escapist research mission.

The first thing I learned was that using the word bunny is technically incorrect. These cute little furballs are actually either rabbits or hares. Bunny is slang and an endearment used to describe a baby rabbit or hare, or a beginner female skier. Below is everything I could find out about how we started using the word bunny.

I then learned that, in Maine and New England, we see either New England Cottontails or Snowshoe Hares. What's the difference I inquired as I'm sure you are at this very moment?

First of all, and if you are going to be an armchair rabbit or hare expert, you need to know that baby-rabbits are called kittens, while baby-hares are called leverets (Middle English, from Anglo-French, hare skin, from levere, levre hare, from Latin lepor-, lepu. First Known Use: 15th century).

Next, you need to know your rabbits. The New England Cottontail:
• is a true rabbit
• stays brown all year
• gives birth to blind, hairless kittens that require considerable attention during
  their first two weeks of life
• does not live north of the Portland area
• has been recently listed as a state endangered species and is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act too. Loss of habitat has caused a steep decline in New England cottontail populations throughout their range in New England and New York.

And finally, you need to know the difference between the above and the Snowshoe Hare which:
• is not a rabbit
• is larger than the cottontail with larger body, longer ears, and much longer feet
• turns white during the winter
• is born fully furred with their eyes open, and can hop about within hours of their birth.

So there you have it, everything you need to be totally knowledgeable about something totally irrelevant.

Totally Irrelevant • 8"x 8" gouache and graphite framed to 12" x 12" • $200

For more info on Maine's rabbits and hares, check out this web site:
http://www.orcca.on.ca/~elena/useful/bunnies.html

Below is everything I could find about the word bunny. 

Origin: Early 17th century (originally used as a term of endearment to a person, later as a pet name for a rabbit): from dialect bun 'squirrel, rabbit', also used as a term of endearment, of unknown origin.

Another origin theory: The origin of that "bun," unfortunately, is a bit of a mystery. It is possible, although not considered likely, that a perceived resemblance of the bunny's tail to the bakery sort of bun explains the term. If true, this would also tie the rabbit sort of "bun" to the "bun" of hair worn on the back of the head in some hairstyles. Incidentally, the probable origin of this kind of "bun" is not very appetizing, being the Old French "bugne," meaning "swelling" or "boil."

Another possible source for the rabbit sort of "bun" is the Gaelic word "bun," which means "stump or root." This "bun" fits well with the stumpy tail of the rabbit, and is, in fact, the source of the use of "buns" to mean the human buttocks. But neither this stumpy "bun" nor the possible "bakery" derivation explains why the term was formerly also applied to squirrels, which, of course, sport luxurious tails.