June 2012 Archives

#21 summer solstice 2012

When I started this solstice project writing and posting through short winter days allowed me to see beauty in the dark and focus my busy heart on the glint, glimmer and shadow. I love the summer sensations so much I found it harder to roost my words in the moments of lingering light. The songs of my childhood heart beat loudest in June. Now that the longest day has passed I find a sinking sadness that the days of 2012 are shorter from here on out. I will have to recommit to making the effort to find the image, see the word, and hear the light in all of its variations.

_MG_1626-2.jpgTake your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.

-- Mary Oliver, from What Can I Say

#20 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
Due to the fact that 2012 is a leap year today is really the longest day of the year, but in my mind this is a 21 day project so there is still one day left.... Yesterday the heat kicked in and today it built into that incredible oppressive wave of humidity that is summer in Virginia. I was not in the swing of summer mode. I turned on the ac and we hosted a luncheon for the members of the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club who came to see my pots and studio. They brought the food. We provided the plates and the place and I think they ate it up in every sense of the term. When it came time to water the garden in the fading light I realized I forgot to take a photo for today. So I reached back in our archive to a tulip poplar moment before June began.

tulip poplar flower.jpg

"I wanted to stay as I was
still as the world is never still,
not in midsummer but the moment before
the first flower forms, the moment
nothing is as yet past--"
-- Louise Glück, opening lines to "The Doorway", in The Wild Iris

#19 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
Last night  friends came to visit bringing gifts from an Asian farm in Delaware. They brought Chinese cucumbers, Japanese eggplants and Kabosu  a small  green citrus that is related to the yuzu. I had to write down the name so I would not forget. We discussed friends and acquaintances and a painter's name dropped from our memories like a rock through a hole in Swiss cheese. In the morning I came up with the artist's name but forgot the dancer I was trying to recall.


The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never

even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses good-bye

and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away,
a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember

it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river

whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

-- Billy Collins

June 18 2012

| No Comments
This evening on my dog walk around the pond, it was the kind of grey where every shade of leaf, memory and minnow speaks vividly. I found the first blackberries of the season at the edge of the path. I ate a few just as a test  then carefully carried a few more home to photograph. I protected the precious fruit as the dog pulled the leash to chase a groundhog. I let her off when she was on the scent of another animal. When I got home I set the berries to the side of Warren's photo shoot so I could compose my shot when he was finished. When he quit I went to set up my shot but the berries were gone.  I asked about the three black berries he said "Oh I thought they were a gift."
I guess they were.

Night covers the pond with its wing.
Under the ringed moon I can make out
your face swimming among minnows and the small
echoing stars. In the night air
the surface of the pond is metal.

Within, your eyes are open. They contain
a memory I recognize, as though
we had been children together.

The pond by Louise Gluck

#17 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
During dinner on the porch tonight with cool breezes and friends we discuss bird sounds. What do we notice and when and what do our dogs notice and how do they respond. One dog barks at the early morning cardinal. One man wakes with the predawn mockingbird, I notice them all smile rollover and drift back to sleep with their celebration as a lullaby.

Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, the world is to be celebrated.
-Terry Tempest Williams, When Woman Were Birds, p 205

#16 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments

'My own hand, with pen in place, bushwhacks through my psyche, cutting through the dense understory of random thoughts."
-Terry Tempest Williams, When Woman Were Birds, p 165

#15 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments

Searching for packing materials and examples of glaze and clay combinations I found layers of pots I had forgotten. The plate above was fired last week. The one below is circa 1995.

"Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep." - Carl Sandberg

#14 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
I have been out weeding until the light faded to the point that I couldn't accurately tell weeds from seedlings. Happy to have the quiet dusk articulate with clouds and fireflies while the gas kiln is in preheat.

May my silences become more accurate. -Theodore Roethke, poet (1908-1963)

#13 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
On a recent evening dog walk when my daughter was home I described an unsatisfying attempt at crushing mint in a plastic cup for a mojito.  She responded that in Italy she really learned the importance of the right container for the soul of a beverage. She began to describe different ways of serving coffee and how it affected the taste, Then she stopped herself and said... "Oh yeah, I forgot who I was talking to, you know all about that don't you."

_MG_1202.jpgEveryone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

--Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

#12 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
_MG_0958.jpgThe clouds come and go, providing a rest for all the moon viewers.

#11 summer solstice 2012

When I turned ten my cousin Sara came to visit from Minnesota. She brought me a pink diary with a tiny key for my birthday. Dad offered that if I wrote in the book every day for the summer he would pay me what seemed like a huge sum...$5. During June I dutifully filled the couple of lines each day. in July my entries dwindled and I began to write one word and do a tiny drawing. I thought I was cheating and soon my efforts petered out. In retrospect I wish I had known that a word and an image were enough.
I am currently reading When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. On her deathbed Terry's mother said, "I am leaving you all my journals." At the next full moon Terry opened them to find that they were all empty. Terry is left to wonder what can she "glean from the furrows" of the empty journals.

_MG_0971.jpgThe most beautiful words cannot be written, unfortunately. Fortunately. We would have to be able to write with our eyes, with wild eyes, with the tears of our eyes, with the frenzy of a gaze, with the skin of our hands.

-Terry Tempest Williams, When Woman Were Birds, p 151.

#10 summer solstice 2012

Last summer in Maine my morning habit was to get up early with the dog and walk to the south end of the island to look out at the ocean. The dog, being a sociable creature, would rather go to the north end dock to see folks and more canines. After I got my fill of the ocean I would pick a handful of raspberries to go with my oatmeal. This month here at home, after I walk the dog and get the paper, I stop and pick a handful of blueberries. They are a high-bush large variety of berries, a completely different creature than the native blueberries of Maine, but I am happy for my fresh local taste. This is the first year my bushes have really produced. I admire their resilience as they lean way over trying to escape the encroaching forsythia bush.

_MG_0966.jpgMore and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs--all this resinous, unretractable earth."

--Jane Hirshfield, Optimism

I finally got around to my garlicscape soup. The recipe calls for a bit of further tweaking but....

_MG_0987.jpg"If clothes make the person, dishes make the food."
The Art of Rosanjin by Sidney B Cardozo and Masaaki Hirano, p. 96.
or as a friend alternately translated, "Tableware is food's kimono." (Ruth Seib)

#8 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
The smell and taste of fresh mint will forever remind me of summer and my mother. She loved mint in everything from her drink to her dessert. Tonight I was headed to a potluck dinner and my assignment was to bring dessert. Feeling summery, I thought I'd bring something with mint from the garden.

My father loves to tell the story that one summer night my mother sent him to the store to buy ice cream to go with blueberries. He came home with mint chocolate chip and my mother was furious as she thought that was a terrible combination especially when they had company. It turns out that dad really likes the combination of blueberries and mint chocolate chip.

As I concocted my dessert plan I thought mint and blueberries would be good and maybe I'd get some ice cream (made from coconut milk) and oh, why not have a nice bar of dark chocolate as well. All of a sudden it dawned on me it was a replay of mint chocolate chip with blueberries and mint. But in reality, I ran out of time to go shopping, so we all happily vanquished the dark chocolate and cookies.


All day I've listened to the industry
of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree

just outside my window. Hard at his task,

his body is a hinge, a door knocker

to the cluttered house of memory in which

I can almost see my mother's face.

She is there, again, beyond the tree,

its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves,

hanging wet sheets on the line -- each one

a thin white screen between us. So insistent

is this woodpecker, I'm sure he must be

looking for something else -- not simply

the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift

the tree might hold. All day he's been at work,

tireless, making the green hearts flutter.

Natasha Trethewey, Poems, [the newly named poet laureate]

#7 summer solstice

| 1 Comment
I have been dreaming of making a garlicscape soup. The recipe calls for spinach and all my spinach has bolted and I did not get into town today. So dinner will be poetry, a scape on the plate, an onion blossom in a vase perched on the fireplace, 1970's hits in the background, the kiln in preheat, and a thunderstorm hovering at the horizon.


"I have been eating poetry..."

Mark Strand

#6 summer solstice 2012

I have a habit of notebooks. In the morning I take my coffee to the studio and write a couple of pages.The pages might be full of to-do lists or complaints or stories. When I am working on the solstice project I tell myself to write drafts for each day's post but no matter how hard I try what I write by hand is not what gets typed on the blog. Word has it that Jack Kerouac wrote his book On the Road in three weeks. He typed furiously on a scroll of paper with no stops and starts. His words piled up like rocks in a stonewall with no paragraphs or page breaks. I am also told that he had the habit of notebooks where he collected stories and his personal experiences. I imagine that his writing of what is thought of as supreme improvisation might have begun in bits and pieces in small cups of practice.

I think of personal notebooks as collections of rocks or pebbles that we put in our pockets. They roll around for awhile in the dark and sometimes we get the rocks out and study them with our coffee and other times they stay tucked in amongst the pages until they are ready to be poured out in a new organization.

IMG_0289-adj.jpg"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."
- Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

#5 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
I have been making plates, bowls, and cups for Omen Restaurant in New York City since 1983. This spring as I work I am looking back over favorite forms, surfaces, and patterns. It is challenging to revisit earlier ideas to reinvent inspiration and form. Today I have been looking at my bowls inspired by the calligraphy of Shinagawa Tetszuan. His repeated interpretation of nothingness speaks of of a calm mind and an articulate brush. In the introduction to Tetszuan's book of calligraphy the Dalai Lama said, "It is in the context of a calm mind that we may say that even one careful stroke of a brush can speak and even a simple stone may hear." I search for the current season's version of a shallow bowl which is as fresh as a new sprout of asparagus.

_MG_0810.jpg"a silence like thunder"

#4 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
My daughter left today to go back to New York. As a recent college graduate on the job search, she is in one of those transitional zones. Since her graduation we have spent a few nights in my childhood home in Manhattan, in Maine in the island cottage my parents nested and here in our Virginia house. We have walked city streets, high tide marks and rolling hills. In each place with my daughter at my side I feel my mother's presence in a profound way.
    Often when I am in New York I read a bit of my mother's journals. I am  looking for the intersection of her past with my present and her particular expression of days. Often the entries are not what I had hoped for or expected. But I feel lucky to have them to turn to as the evidence of a life lived, proof in the underlined insight and inspiration in the musical drawing. As Zoe retreated from our house this morning I took time to wander my garden and studio. I picked a garlicscape, found a vase and planted my feet in the places where I find my voice.
_MG_0806.jpg"A mother and daughter are an edge. Edges are ecotones, transitional zones, places of danger or opportunity. House-dwelling tension. When I stand on the edge of the land and sea, I feel this tension, this fluid line of transition. High tide. Low tide. It is the sea's reach and retreat that reminds me we have been human for only a very short time."

--Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds (p. 20)

#3 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
After Sunday night pasta on the porch, we shifted to the wicker couch so we could watch the nearly full moon climb above the tree line in the crisp clear air. It was as if the trees held the moon in their hands.

_MG_0811.jpgThe night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.
--Frederic Lawrence Knowles

#2 summer solstice 2012

| No Comments
Before Memorial Day I felt the garden was on the cusp of change. I wasn't ready to give up on my gorgeous greens. As we walked out the door I was madly weeding seedlings to keep the paths clear. Now that we are back the lettuce is bitter and has bolted, but the peas glorious.

_MG_0807.jpgSpeech to the Young, Speech to the Progress-Toward

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.
Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

- Gwendolyn Brooks

# 1 summer solstice 2012

| 1 Comment
According to Wikipedia the beginning of the meteorological summer is  June 1st in the Northern hemisphere. It is also the beginning of my summer solstice project. Here is the first in a series leading up to June 21st, the longest day of the year.