June 2009 Archives

summer solstice #21

In my visual childhood sense of the year Summer was at the bottom arc of the year. My older brothers were good at making up rules that shaped my universe. According to them we could go barefoot after mother's day and they could take off their wet suits on surf trips after my birthday. I trust Zoë's visual image of the summer has a different turn. Tonight Zoe and I walked to the top of the drive way at 915 pm. There was still some color in the sky on this summer solstice, the longest day of the year. She vaguely remembered the summer she was in third grade when we celebrated the summer solstice by going out in the row boat on our pond where we lit floating candles and drifted day lilies in the water. that evening  Zoë read us poems she had collected over the year. That was also the year she and her friend Shannon renamed the boat, the butter cup, and we spent long afternoons floating, reading and writing poems.


"Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock a universe. This is how you spend the afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon."
Annie Dillard Pilgrem at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #20

I spent the afternoon finishing up my last slabs for the wood kiln. I thought I'd have an early meal and go back to work after dinner. But the long daylight deceives my internal clock, when I looked up it was 7 instead of what I thought was 5pm. The sun was out which felt like a great occasion and the shadows were brilliant.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Zoe was photographing me taking my photograph of the bee balm.I wished I had photos of my mom photographing her plants.

Thumbnail image for 20-bee-balm-long-shadow.jpg
"Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you." Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #19


"We can look around us those of us who are nibbled but unbroken, from the shimmering vantage of the living. Here may not be the cleanest, newest place, but that clean timeless place that vaults on either side of this one is no place at all."  Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

19-ripped-vase.jpgToday is my birthday and from my mother and by contrast, not my grandmother, I have learned to be above board with my age.  When I was little my grandmother always told me she was 108. She thought I would understand that it was a fib. I was oblivious to the concept and asked, "but grandma, by now you must be 109." After that she never told anyone her age. As a result my mother was always honest with her age. On her 75th birthday she told me when she turned 50 she got terribly depressed, she thought she was over the hill. At 75 she realized she was in the prime of her life. At 79 the night before she died she told Ari (a friend) that she looked forward to turning 80.  He sang her a song as a response.  Today I am 51 and I walk the dog feeling nibbled but unbroken. I swam in the pond when I was exhausted at the end of the work day. It may not have been the cleanest water, but from the vantage point of water level the world was timeless and the geologic quality of clay seemed to vault over my momentary questions.

summer solstice #18

| 1 Comment

A few years ago while talking shop with another potter I was surprised to find that she did not consider vases utilitarian. It seemed that flowers were an extravagance and did not provide a function in her life. The training ingrained from  my mother's constant flow of flora on the table made it difficult to see her point of view.

As I work on this project putting flowers in pots each day and shooting my photo, I try not to repeat the plant material or the form but today I could not help myself. My hope is that viewer will look at plants differently or look at containers another way or see light, shadow and color with renewed focus as a result of looking at the whole combination.  Each day I work as purely as I can looking hard and paying attention to intuitive insights.

18-garlicscape-tangle.jpg"There are few live seasons. Let us live then as purely as we can, in the present." Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #17

| 1 Comment
Rain poured like a waterfall outside and time slipped through my fingers as I assembled pots and ran out the door to a gallery talk in Rockville, Maryland.


"Not only will something come if you wait, but it pours over you like a waterfall, like a tidal wave. You wait in all naturalness without expectation or hope, emptied, translucent, and that which comes rocks and topples you; it will shear, loose, launch, winnow, grind." Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #16

When we were kids my mother was always losing her glasses. She would tell us who ever found them would get a present. Invariably they were sitting in an obvious place and the present we waited for empty handed was a kiss. When I went through post cards last week I noticed that many of the cards were inspired by Mom cleaning off her desk. She thought she should share the collections of images that accumulated in the net of her desk.


"You don't run down the present, pursue it with baited hooks and nets. You wait for it, empty-handed, and you are filled. You'll have fish left over... It is by definition, Christmas, the incarnation. This old rock planet gets the present for a present on its birthday every day." Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #15

I am deep in the studio making the last few things before we fire the wood kiln. This is when I am centered and following ideas as wind played over the water.


"I center down wherever I am; I find a balance and repose. I retreat--not inside myself, but outside myself, so that I am a tissue of senses. Whatever I see is plenty, abundant. I am the skin of water the wind plays over; I am pearl, feather, stone." Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #14

| 1 Comment

The structure of my life is centered on making things weather it making pots or the bed, the garden or a batch of clay, the disparate activates are sewn together like a quilt. The pattern of dog walks, weeding, throwing, photographing or cooking fit together with uneven lengths.When I walk with the dog I set out down a mowed path. On the walks  I follow where the path leads,I live for the views where the grass and sky draw a line across the expanse of vision. Today was the kind of June day when the humidity had been blown away with a night time storm and every blade of grass had been washed and each view seems incredibly fresh.


14-sage-stripes.jpg "When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject?  You will know tomorrow or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. " Annie Dillard The Writing Life

summer solstice #13

| 1 Comment


The first day lily bloomed today. I picked it as my Mother would have, just the blossom so that the other buds could be left on the stem to bloom. My desire is usually to pick the stem to have more height to relate to a vase.  My work in this solstice project is to see the flower, pick the container,and click the photo which turns the gears of the imagination.


"Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair." Annie Dillard

summer solstice #12

 I have spent it all in an extended day in the studio.

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time... Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes." Annie Dillard The Writing Life

summer solstice # 11

Picking small bouquets of flowers was my mother's habit, snapping photos was her routine, making drawings was like breathing.There are many facts of her life and there are the stories her family loves to tell. My brother Steve and I talked about how the further we get from the fact of her death the less we grieve and the more we just become her. I breathe at the window by my wheel where  the June light filters through the thick leaves. I work hard to keep a view of the pond continually trimming branches and mowing weeds.  I do this because I learned from my Mom to love the light and the view and to make time for sunsets.

"There are plenty of ways to pile on the facts, and it is easy to overlook some things. "The fact is," said Van Gogh,  "the fact is that we are painters in real life, and the important thing is to breathe as hard as ever we can breathe."  Annie Dillard quoting Van Gogh from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 

summer solstice #10

| 1 Comment

I spent the morning throwing bottles and after lunch I went through a stack of postcards and letters from the late 70s and early 80s. I am not sure what I was looking for but I read the haiku like messages of exhibits viewed and movies seen and was surprised by the number of images of pots mom sent on her postcards. My favorite letter was in response to a letter of mine, I must have had an argument at school with a teacher. Mom wrote that "its wonderful that you had a chance to read, absorb, think, argue and express yourself." She goes on to say "Just what Socrates would have approved of! It was he who said "the unexamined life is not worth living." She goes on to say that Socrates was convinced that young Athenians must learn to speak out and that it comes with practice.  Also I found a typed letter from my Dad. They are much fewer but easier to read. He closes the page of news by saying "we hope your health and money are holding out and that you continue to avoid jail. We all send our love."


When my Mother's friend Irene moved out of New York she gave me a book with all the handmade postcards Mom had ever sent Irene. At the time I thought it was sweet but odd. After Mom died the gift gained importance as each of the cards held another trace of her life dedicated to an artistic vision and generous touch.

"The dedicated life is worth living. You must give with your whole heart." Annie Dillard

summer solstice #9

| No Comments
I work well within the scaffolding of a project. I don't have to question what the next step is or where to throw my energy. I just take the next step. In 1995 I decided to give myself the assignment to put flowers in a vase and snap a photo every day for a month. I wanted to pay attention to how my pots held the flowers, to understand what my tendencies are in picking flowers. I wanted to see stems against rims and necks. Every so often I reassign myself the task as the pots change,  the garden shifts, or my ideas about backgrounds transform.

09-daisys.jpgEarly on in the process I put an iris in a vase with a weedy piece of grass and Warren asked, "if you put the two of those together in a vase then why do you feel compelled to pull the weeds out of the garden." It was a good question and I relaxed my weeding for awhile until the grass took over the flowers. I put the photos in small books as a way to catch the days of summer and the particulars of each year.


flower-photos-1-book.jpg"A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time."  -- Annie Dillard


summer solstice #8

| 1 Comment
"If we were to judge nature by common sense or likelihood, we wouldn't believe the world existed."
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


summer solstice #7

| No Comments
Several years ago an artist and gardener friend suggested I plant garlic so that I could paint these garlic scapes. I find them each June at the farmers market and they have become part of how I perceive June. Their looping growth unrolls my visions of the long evenings and how pots interact with what they contain.

07-garlicscape.jpg"What I want to do is add time to the texture, paint the landscape on an unrolling scroll, and set the giant relief globe spinning on its stand."  --Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

summer solstice #6

| No Comments

I have been watching the tendrils of bittersweet creep up into the window that faces north in the studio. Today  the twinning vines caught hold of an upper branch of mulberry and crossed the window. That was one vine too many and it was time to take advantage of the muscular energy that was brewing now that the sun is out and mow the weeds in the rear of the studio. The  vines have been pulled down so  light and views are possible from the window once again.


There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind.  --Annie Dillard

summer solstice #5

| 1 Comment
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. "
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


summer solstice #4

| 1 Comment
Last night when I left the studio it was raining (as it is now).   I stepped out and a powerful wave of rose fragrance washed over me. Today I went in search of some wild roses to cut for a photo and most of the flower petals had been washed to the ground by the driving rain. I found one flower in the shade of a sassafras tree. Planted as if a reminder, flagging how momentary these blossoms and fragrances can be.

04-rose-bush.jpgIn March, when my daughter was on her spring break she began to read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I had pulled out my copy that my mother had given me in August of 1977. I was 19 at the time, the same age Zoe is now. In the paperback copy we found a postcard written in my mother's hand and never sent. Stuffed in as a bookmark at page sixty, it was as far as I had read. Now, as I roll out slabs for plates in the studio, I listen to the book on my ipod. Having lived  in Virginia for twebty years with the habit of daily walks, the landscape and the words have a different resonance than it did as a city teenager.

"This year I want to stick a net into time and say 'now,' as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say 'here.'  --Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974 (Chapter 5, Untying the Knot)

summer solstice #3


I have intense preteen memories of being embarrassed by my mother. Mostly they center on picking up trash on our way home from Central Park or stopping by the side of the road in Long Island to pick flowers. I remember driving down what seemed like unknown roads and stopping the car so she could pick daylilies, phlox, daisies and clover to put on the table in a jar in our summer rental. My parents rented renovated barns so Dad could have studio space and we could be out of the city and near the water.


My adult life mirrors those childhood memories with odd distortions. I live by the water but it is only a pond not the Atlantic. I pick flowers to put in my vases and my studio resembles a barn. I am sure I have embarrassed both Warren and Zoe in my desire to stop and pick all the same flowers by the side of the road while they worry that some irate owner will come around the bend.

"I woke in bits, like all children, piecemeal over the years. I discovered myself and the world, and forgot them, and discovered them again. " --Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

summer solstice #2


My mother kept continuous notebooks and sketchbooks.  Every time I go home I slip into another volume. I am just dipping into the river of perception of her travels, readings, lectures, quotes and sketches. There are shopping bags of poems, a novel, and boxes of her snapshots.


She loved flowers and put them in vases.  The light coming in from the south across her table inspired her to snap many pix. Her attention and commitment inspires me to pick flowers and to photograph them with focus. Because I make pots I find the process of putting flowers in containers sharpens my aesthetics of use and hones my vision. 

summer solstice #1

| No Comments
June first and around here it smells like honeysuckle. We have had lots of rain and as a result I have been wrestling mowers, vines, and weeds while looking for beauty in the exuberant rampant growth.

This is the first in a series leading up to the summer solstice on June 21.