Saturday, February 14, 2015

Crow with Valentine

Thing a Day is an online creativity group that happens in February.  One year I chose crows and pomegranates as my themes for the work I'd do and came up with little paintings each day.  On Valentine's Day I'd been busy and shortly before I went to bed, I remembered that I hadn't made anything.  I grabbed some paint and paper and made a quick crow, flying home to her sweetie with a little pretty to line the nest.

I like this crow.  I like that it feels like my life sometimes - that I am flying through turbulence and trying to keep up with the small honoring that each day deserves.  No perfection here.  But a gift.

I hope you find a way to celebrate all the loves of your life, including yourself; you can make it little thing.  Happy Valentine's Day!

For a different Valentine treat, you can see this older post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

poetry and crows 2

Walking the first snowfall
 we dream drifted past the pond;
ducks edged away
 from  thin icy rims.

This morning
in a brittle dawn,
only reflections of sun fetching
swim across the gleaming

Friday, February 6, 2015

poetry and crows 1

                                                          A snow speckled
                                                        blossoms with crows
                                                                in the gray
                                                             morning light.

We are expecting more snow tomorrow.  Our crow friends come early looking for the food that we sometimes have for them.  When it's minus 8 degrees, you wonder how they survive these days.  One of the things that impresses me the most is how they work as a community.  This morning a single crow landed in the Norway spruce and eyed the cut up hot dogs lying on the crust of snow.  It made the call that seems to say, come and get it.  And then it sat there watching the food, not flying down to touch it.  It must be hungry - they burn calories so quickly in this cold.  But it wouldn't go after  it until the other crows arrived.  They are very skittish when there is food left for them - one or more are always keeping a watch for danger.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

winter crows

I love crows.  I love ravens, too, but we don't have as many of them here - so crows get more of my attention. 
For over 30 years I've felt companioned by them.  What endears them to me is their gorgeous solid blackness, almost negative space at times, their lustiness, their humor, their total energy.

  When I was a kid in Colorado we had their cousins, magpies, who caught my eye.  And those darned birds loved to torment our German Shepherd, Champ.  He'd be minding his own business in our back yard, and a couple of them would come sit on the clothesline just out of reach.  They'd caw and buzz by him and when he jumped at them, they'd quickly scoot just out of reach.  They seemed to find it to be a great past time.

I don't know that I paid much mind to crows until the late 70's or early 80's when I started running. My daily run began before dawn in most seasons.  I ran in all kinds of weather.  And the crows would always be there. 

I lived near Vassar campus and would head toward a path through the woods.  Crows would be flying overhead, east with me, as I ran down the street and into the trees.  They would come by in twos and threes, sometimes more, sometimes a lonely straggler.  But they seemed to want to fly toward the light.  In the evening, I noticed they'd head west toward the river - a reversal of their earlier travels.  On a windy day, when I'd be grumbling in my head, I'd notice that they were playing on currents or shouldering through a strong wind - and I'd feel cheered.  I ran for many years There was never a love of running.  My next favorite part of it was the shower afterward.  My favorite part was the companionship of crows.

I'll share some poems and paintings that have been inspired by this friendship in later blogs.  In the meantime, enjoy these wonderful birds when they come your way!  And feel free to tell my your stories - I bet we all have them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

paper dolls for an anniversary

alma and mort
My parents just celebrated their 70th anniversary!  That's quite an accomplishment.  In trying to come up with a gift idea that would be fun, meaningful, and not add to their mission to downsize, I was stumped.  Then shortly before the actual date I hit on an idea.  My aunt Verlee is a paper doll collector.  I used to love paper dolls when I was young, made them all the time.  They don't take a lot of room, but can show a lot of history.  I decided to make a set of paper dolls for mom and dad that included clothes from the 8 decades that their relationship has existed.

I spent hours going through photo albums and boxes of images trying to find pictures that could piece together a story.  I sent my parents a card (a little lame)  to congratulate them with the promise of a gift to come.  And then I have spent the last three weeks figuring out how to do this and painting.  The dolls were the hardest part and I'm not totally happy with them, but they'll have to do.  I'm not great with the computer and took the faces from old photos, resizing them as best I could. I decided to use a younger set for the first 30 years and an older set after that.  If I were to do this again for anyone, I'd figure out a good standard body and make a few more ages so I could capture more of the hairstyles.

drum majorette and army air corps uniforms
I painted the clothes on watercolor paper, and then printed them out on thinner paper so they could actually be used if someone wanted to do that.  I'll get a folder to put it all in - and send it off this week.  It's been a great project.  I've had a lot of time to contemplate their lives and our relationship.  I hope this gift will stimulate conversation between them, help them to reflect on what this marriage has meant to them.  And I think it will give them some laughs as they share it with their friends and get to hear their stories that were being created at the same time.  As we get older, we come to treasure the stories most of all.

1970's casual cocktail clothes

1990's ski clothes

2014 anniversary celebration

Monday, March 3, 2014


Today was cold and still too much hard icy snow to get out with Ethan so we planned a make believe birdwatching expedition.  We made binoculars of toilet paper tubes glued together and decorated them, adding yarn to put them around our necks.

 Then we made up a bunch of birds that we taped around the house - in the "lamp" bush, on the fridge, taped to a closet door.

 He immediately recognized hummingbirds, owl, and robin.  Others we loosely interpreted, but he loved looking through Roger Tory Peterson's guide book to find things that kind of looked like our pictures.  I was delighted with how enthusiastic he was with the activity - we did this off and on all day.

 And later he drew his own birds.  There is nothing quite so wondrous as watching a child's imagination take over.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Birthday Celebration

It's been over 6 months since I last posted anything.  Family things happened.  Illnesses and accidents  happened. There has been sadness and there has been joy.  I'd like to spend some time on some of the joy.

daddy at 90
My dad's 90th birthday was Christmas eve.  Since he lives in Seattle, we don't often get to celebrate his birthday with him, not wanting to leave our grandchildren.  But a 90th birthday seemed to be a pretty special deal and one we couldn't miss.

What do you get someone turning 90 who has everything he needs or wants?  I decided to make a book for him about his life.  I have boxes and folders filled with old newspaper articles, letters, photos, and family history.  They're not organized very well, so it took a lot of digging.  My house was turned over to this project for a couple of months in the fall. 

Trying to figure out how to approach telling his story gave me a new appreciation for people who write biographies!  So many decisions have to be made. And I had to be realistic about the time frame I had to work with - I should have begun this  a year ago when I first thought about doing this.

I bought a spiral bound sketch book, about 8 1/2 by 11".  I decided to hand write the story, beginning with a title that would give me some lea way:  "An Incomplete, Significantly Biased Chronicle of the Remarkable Life of Morten Thornton Beck Joslin".  That way, I couldn't be accused of leaving things out, reporting my own point of view, etc.  I realize that everyone who knows him could have experienced the same event and come up with a different take on it.

His grandparents had come from various parts of this country and other countries - so the question began to take shape - how did they all arrive in such a place as to make it possible for him to be born?  And then there was all the moving around that he did over his lifetime, between the military service, college, job.  I learned so much about the family in doing this. 

It became apparent that I couldn't keep it a secret since I wanted to include as much accurate information as I could and much of that was only known to him.  What a memory he has! He gave me so many details that at times I couldn't write fast enough. 

I left empty pages throughout the book so that he, mom, my brother or sister could add stories that I had not put in.  And I copied lots of photos, as many as the book would hold, to accompany the narratives throughout.

He was thrilled.  I was so excited to have been able to do this for him.  And we will copy it for our kids and grandchildren so they will have a better sense of this man whom many of them will not have a chance to know as well as he or they would like. 

My mom's 90th is coming up in another year - I should start working on that soon!

Have you thought of writing down your own stories?  Or those of family members?