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16th Street Beach Access

May 15, 2024

16th Street Beach Access

We’ve all had moments of synergy when the sum of separate parts is almost overwhelming; and that is what I try to describe in this poem. It was my experience as I walked into a scene of calm, natural beauty at the end of the 16th street beach access.

Magical,
this land’s-end vista
where sky and sea blend
at a hazy horizon
bleached pale blue
by a sun, white-hot not yellow,
no cloud shade
no soft breeze
just this –
a bird,
a boat,
a beach.
I slip off sandals,
sink toes into white sand,
inhale fully, one, deep, breath, then walk slowly
to the edge of cool, rippling water.


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Simple Joys

April 15, 2024

Simple Joys

When I taught nursing in a community college, my days started early and seemed endless. There were so many responsibilities, besides the obvious one of guiding young adults to become caregivers, that even my at home hours were filled with faculty obligations. I was always reading or writing something work related and longed for days when they, the reading and writing, would be purely for pleasure. I yearned for mornings when I could linger over a cup of hot tea in my pajamas, while watching gulls circle my sky and swans swim in my lagoon, instead of rushing to get to a college campus or a healthcare facility.

When the time came for me to leave my faculty position and move into my next chapter, I left the lagoon behind for an island where I continue to savor the smell of salt air and the call of gulls and other water birds. l still start my days early because there is new work to do. It is creative work done on my schedule without the constraints of someone else’s timetable. It is the kind of work I craved but never had time for when I wore a lab coat over business attire sporting a name tag with credentials and affiliations.

Now, in my home studio I paint pictures to sell, write pieces for my online journal, and read extensively about all things related to my creative pursuits. I can start or stop as I please. I’ve traded a lab coat for an apron, a name tag for color splatters, and business attire for jeans and a t-shirt. My new endeavors do seem less like work and more like pleasure but they also require a certain discipline on my part. Commissions have agreements and time frames to meet; so does my personal goal: publish one written piece with a companion painting every month on my website.

Mornings are gentler and slower now. I use them to ease into my day. I can linger in my pajamas with my cup of tea (maybe two) and use those moments for contemplation. Every morning as I watch the steam waft over the top of my cup, feel the warmth of the cup on my palms, and taste the earthy, brown brew I am grateful for the life I’ve made and thankful that I am able to fully enjoy it. Now that I’ve gotten to this part of my life, I refuse to rush through it, choosing instead to show up on time savoring every day and all the simple joys embedded in living.


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Like A March Hare

March 19, 2024

Like A March Hare

Spring begins today, March 19, and like a March hare I have anticipated spring’s arrival with growing excitement. As the lean, cold, short days of winter recede, I feel the promise of days growing longer, warmer, and more voluptuous. All around my island home, marshes are greening, trees are leafing, and garden centers are bursting with color. Outside my door, orange blossoms sweeten the air; at the edge of my garden, in a nesting box, bluebirds serenade as they build their home. So like the March hare, I’m ready to be outside enjoying this first burst of seasonal change, this first taste of glorious spring, not with a March hare’s madness but the exuberance of inexorable joy.


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A Gardener’s Musings in Winter

February 16, 2024

A Gardener’s Musings in Winter

I.

Fallow ground rests below earth-toned rocks,
bare, brown hydrangea branches stretch tall,
a few hearty geranium leaves cling to woody stems,
the bluebird box is vacant,
only the greens of paddle cacti and elephant ears,
the passing shadows of brown house sparrows,
mock the cold, the wind that lifts sand, an abrasive shiver.

It is said that the meek shall inherit the earth
so I cultivate patience in this winter pause
waiting for nature’s signs
that it is time to sow, and seed, and feed,
not rushing to break the season’s silence
with the arrogant noise of one who thinks
she is the force in charge of growing.

Instead,
I wait and dream of
spring days, the return of
tousled blue hydrangeas,
buoyant red geraniums and
eastern bluebirds building, nesting
and filling my space with their joyful song.

II.

And then, in the garden shop
on a faux-spring February day,
I see them,
blushing petals, coral-pink,
hugging a butter yellow center
full of juicy promise, these strawberry plants
ready to rehome, someplace outside my door.

There are herbs
oregano, sage, and thyme
heady with earthy scent and
lime green lettuce leaves
delicate and tender
promising flavor in sauces and salads
shared with family and friends.

So I buy them all
these harbingers of bounty
and beauty and the dutiful work of
digging in the dirt
when true spring arrives
with soft rain, sunny skies
and the promise of never being completely finished.

For one’s health, it is very necessary to work in the garden and see the flowers growing.” Vincent Van Gogh


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A Word for 2024

January 16, 2024

A Word for 2024

Listen is my one word “spirit guide” for this year. Since I believe in the power of words this was not an easy choice for me. I know that words may console or hurt, open or close doors, heal or injure, cause laughter, tears, joy, or pain, and change lives. Words also have an eternal quality and once used can never really be taken back. This is a good reason to take time before using words in any format; and was one reason I took my time choosing listen as my word.

I wanted the word I chose to serve me well in any situation I am presented with this year. I weeded out some strong words that felt too limiting or specific- trust, create, transform, courage, and balance – were a few of those. Instead I chose the word listen because in comparison to other words I considered listen seems softer, more neutral, and more inclusive to me.

Active listening requires a quiet and fully engaged mind. This takes effort for me because my mind buzzes and wanders with abandon. Still, when I remind myself to listen, the noise and wandering mute and slow down. I pay closer attention to the world around me, to my inner conversations and to those conversations I share with others. The word listen sets an intention that helps me be present in important moments so they don’t pass by unnoticed. I figure it this way: if I listen I learn; if I learn I grow; and growth is cause for celebration at the end of a year or really anytime.

Note: The painting posted with this journal entry was completed in a workshop where I repeatedly used my word, listen, to refocus and engage with the teacher rather than with the distractions around me. I really heard the instructions and applied them as directed. Consequently, I learned more than I ever thought possible in a four hour workshop and completed a small still life I love. Thank you, Darcy Melton, a wonderful artist and teacher.


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Plums

November 6, 2023

Plums

What more can be said of plums?

Seductive fruits,
Crisp purple-black skin the color of night,
Soft yellow-red flesh the color of dawn,
An astringent, sweet bite
That quenches and cools and puckers.

What more can be said of plums?


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In October

October 16, 2023

In October

Painted with jewel tones,
scented with wood-smoke
and pine,
this cusp month
yields long yellow days to
even longer indigo nights,
and delights
with an urgent beauty
that is nature in October.


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Mingling Past with Present

September 14, 2023

Mingling Past with Present

For me, the most important moments in life are often unplanned, personal interactions. I remember such a moment I shared with my infant daughter and recount that memory in the following poem. I painted the portrait attached to this journal entry, from a selfie my daughter took recently and shared with me. I used the selfie photo because I have no photo of the baby my daughter was at the moment described in the poem. Connecting the memory with the painting mixes the past and present in what I hope is a realistic and meaningful way.

She Laughed

A giggle really,
chubby legs and arms waving,
toothless, wet smile playing
on her lips, in her eyes.
That first time took me by surprise,
forever changed
a forgettable moment
of mundane motherly chores,
changing clothes and diaper
after her morning nap,
into one sweet memory
filled with attachment, closeness, joy.
The giggle split the moment
into a before and after
I remember like this:

Before she laughs:
nothing remarkable,
nothing to share,
gray.

After she laughs:
late morning sun warms,
gold,
early summer-scented breeze cools,
green,
I feel happy.
Then I laugh, too.


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TJ, Face of a Rescue

August 9, 2023

TJ, Face of a Rescue

He seems wise for his age like he had to learn, earlier than most puppies would, a thing or two about survival. He is a large dog, not quite a year old, who sometimes behaves like the puppy he is and other times like the old man he will become one day. He was chosen for his new life because the owners he shared his old life with no longer wanted him, and his new owners had space for another dog, another family member in their pack. They found him on Craig’s list “free to a good home” and fell in love with his beautiful face and soulful eyes.

So the new family drove to another state, picked him up, and brought him home with them along with his worms, parasitic skin rash, and skinny frame. TJ’s physical needs were the easy fix, requiring proper food and a few vet visits for diagnosis and treatment. His fear and shyness are a different story; emotional needs that will take more time and attention to improve. Only consistent and unconditional patience, love, and kindness will heal TJ’s emotional scars, and help him learn to trust his new family and to feel safe in his new home.

TJ is learning a few new rules so he can live amicably with the others in his new family pack. The new family pack is also learning a few important lessons. With TJ, days and nights are different in mainly pleasant, sometimes unexpected ways. As TJ ages into his toddlerhood he, like any toddler needs frequent correction and a liberal use of the word no. TJ and his new pack are growing in tolerance and understanding of one another everyday. Because TJ is loved, he loves in return with hugs, and licks, and a deep desire to please. TJ is a rescue dog whose owners now understand that rescuing is a two way street; and that love often arrives on four paws.


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Art and Garden: The Border

July 11, 2023

Art and Garden: The Border

Artists and gardeners are creative risk takers. They will try to fill an empty space with grace and beauty no matter how small or large that space is. Starting with intention, gardeners and artists choose what they will create, how they will create it, and what story it will tell. They forge something new, unique and tangible into existence by manipulating shapes, colors, light, shadow, textures, and lines.

I am an artist and gardener. Inside my home studio I paint, draw, and write. I garden inside and outside my home. I recognize similarities in the creative processes of making art and gardens. At start, they both share an intimidating blank space. Once marked, the space is informed as a center of creation. When I am deep in that center, I focus on making ephemeral ideas concrete in a gradual process of change and modification. In the end, when only finishing touches are needed, I look at what I’ve done with satisfaction and actual wonder.

During the scorching month of June this year, I spent many morning hours sculpting a border outside the wrought iron fence enclosing my backyard. I wanted my border to provide an engaging, graceful, and seemingly effortless barrier. So to these ends I shaped the border with rocks, plants, glass, shells and the occasional garden ornament. My work was wearying. It required intense concentration of heart, mind, and hands. By the end of each morning’s labor, I was sweaty, overheated, sore and dirty, clothes and exposed skin streaked with earth. Still, when I would step back, to appraise my work-product from a panoramic distance, (just like I step back from a canvas) I felt pleased. If from the new viewpoint I noticed anything that needed tweaking, I’d make the change quickly and then walk away knowing I’d continue my efforts the next morning with renewed attention.

Essentially, I was hardscaping. Hardscaping is hard work; and using muscles I’d forgotten I had, I hauled pounds of individual rocks, bagged rocks, stones, pebbles, and plants from streetside to backyard. I took great care not to drop the bigger, heavier rocks for fear of breaking their smooth, curvaceous heft into smaller, sharper fragments. I dug out sod, added new plants and snaked the rocks and shells in a loose pattern around a few plants already thriving in the area. I wanted the border to appear casual but grounded, fluid but solid. Within the border, close-to-the-ground bird baths describe my love of birds; and a few carefully chosen garden ornaments evoke a sense of serenity.

As I worked from the North end to the South end of the fence a plan emerged much like one does when I start a painting. One rock placement, like one brushstroke, led to another until shapes emerged and I started spilling and piling stones, prompted by an unseen source of creative confidence. When I started the border I attended to the sizes and shapes of the rock groups. At this early stage colors and shades of stones were less important than their placement. Placement was essential for constructing the illusion of languid movement that was my intention from the start. Color would be my finishing touch.

Color was necessary to mimic a cool, shallow stream of water wending its way through the center of my rocky border to somewhere even colder and deeper. The watery illusion was contrived by quenching the center of my border with blue-green sea glass. I scattered the glass sparingly in some spots and more amply in others to imitate the narrowing and widening of water as it sluices through spaces between rocks and roots. The color is exactly right; it works. The glass, my imaginary water, looks lovely in the sun as well as in the shade.

The suggestion of water is perfect because it is hot outside my home on a small island off the Southeast Coast of Georgia where summer ignites and humidity climbs. I and my garden bask and bake in heat’s grasp and need water to slake a thirst felt in skin and bones and roots. Water surrounds my island. It flows through creeks and rivers into the Atlantic ocean. That is the journey I visualize for my constructed water made of glass. While real moving water would bubble and gurgle on its way to the sea, water sounds in my border are made by birds splashing in birdbaths. Birds sing as they flit about the border from plant to branch or rock.

This garden work is finished; the space is filled; and I am satisfied with the result. I like what I’ve created. Nothing needs to be refined. The new border is a charming replacement for a once rather unattractive space. I’ve created an unexpected addition to my garden area that rewards my creative risk taking everytime I water the plants, hear the birds, or just observe the border and all its elements from afar.


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