Drawings from one summer day long ago in the Moose Meadows at Girdwood, Alaska – a day of concentration that lifted my spirits!
For a couple of years now, when we drive to North Beach to walk, we’ve noted the progress on a piece of property on the road over from ours. We watched as a farm emerged from raw fields – a big red barn, fences, chickens, sheep, rows of lavender, fruit trees, another building (looking like a little school house), flowers in colorful rows, blueberry bushes – all tidy, all interesting.
This summer when a sign went up, listing visiting hours for Wilderbee Farm, we stopped by for a quick visit, then stayed to meet the lively and engaging, self-described “farm geeks” Casey and Eric.
We also met Bob the huge, friendly Suffolk-Hampshire sheep, who along with a big guardian dog named Brina keeps track of a flock of British Soay sheep – also chickens (plentiful and beautiful) and a farm cat named Noodle.
The farmers invited us to trace a mown path around their property as it meanders the edge of ponds, a thicket of good-sized trees, beehives, a greenhouse, and the building site for the farmhouse to come. The whole farm is certified organic and proud to be part of the Port Townsend farming community.
It was fun to see how lavender is distilled, producing essential oil and lavender water (I bought some to spray when life requires the balm of lavender), hear plans for the future (my favorite – neighborhood movie night with a sheet on the side of the barn), and get to know the farmers (enjoying an unexpected conversation about “Game of Thrones”).
I’m looking forward to returning for more u-pick flowers (calendula, sweet peas, nigella, dahlias, sunflowers, cosmos, among others), Halloween pumpkins, and more lavender (I loved seeing the bunches of lavender hanging in the barn).
Welcome Wilderbee – we are lucky you built this great addition to the neighborhood!
If you ever think about moving to Washington, September is the time to visit. You could file away memories that would last through every contradictory rainy or windy or dismal day, you might ever encounter after your move. (Fewer than rumor suggests.)
Washington has everything: mountains, sea, tall trees, farmland, and a real city. September here is Tuscan gold, when slanting light burnishes fields, foliage, and each morning’s wide sandy beach.
The calling birds have gone, leaving those who stay for the winter, busy with provisioning and eating. It’s a privilege to cross the parched lawn and hang clothes, sun hot on my face.
Last week, after our window washers worked their magic, I walked around startled by the sparkle. September seemed a lottery prize, a reward for colder, grayer days. Some mornings the breeze has an edge, but day after day since Labor Day we’ve awakened to blue sky.
In the garden on the columnar trees, apples grow to real apple size. Blueberries ripen on the third and final bush. A surprise this year – huckleberries – many. They mature in the way of native plants, each berry cluster offers one ink blue berry at a time – enough to make batches of muffins and for the chipmunk that often visits.
Berries of all colors, ripe tomatoes, and every vegetable imaginable fill the Farmers’ Market and arrive in our CSA. From east of the mountains, fresh corn and bushels of stone fruit complete the harvest bounty.
I’m grateful to live here – and grateful for September!
The purpose of The Workroom is to help you put more creativity in your life, and be supported in making this a priority.
We will be a small group, beginning Monday the 17th, and participants have varied projects in mind. Not everyone knows exactly what they want to do – and even those who do have many decisions to make. The vision is to provide an opportunity for interaction and development. This isn’t an art class with painful critiques – we get rewarded for showing up and doing.
I will try to encourage work with frequent posts about lists, goals, time management skills, workspaces, dealing with stumbling blocks, definitions of art, and words of wisdom from artists and writers. Participants will use journals and their pages of our private blog while working on a personal project. Because I so believe in the power of creating, my goal is to help people learn more about how “making” is possible for them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.”
There are still spaces, and if you are debating, and I can answer any questions, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Join us as we seek those memorable days!
Never enough but all of it good! Hilary Mantel’s unforgettable Thomas Cromwell accompanied me on airplanes as I devoured “Bring Up the Bodies” – the second book in Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” trilogy. You know how it all comes out – what happens to Anne and even Jane, the next in Henry’s lineup. That doesn’t make any difference to the utter pleasure of reading Mantel’s recreation of the moments and manipulations of Henry VIII’s wife exchanges. I stalled, paused in my reading often, because I didn’t want the book to end.
And on takeoffs or landings, or in bed – I enjoyed another of Vicki Lane’s Elizabeth Goodweather mysteries (“In a Dark Season”). Elizabeth, Katherine, Anne, Jane – such classic names – such different characters.
Two other books occupied August. Since Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes recommended it, I read, near gobbled up, after a visit with Lady Baby, John Medina’s “Brain Rules for Babies.” I wish I’d read this book when I was a young mother – it’s full of wisdom about babies and about negotiating married life in the company of babies and children.
Medina’s basic rules are twofold: Start With Empathy and Focus On Emotions. He describes two simple questions to ask that help create an “empathy reflex – your first response to any emotional situation.” Because he is a scientist, a developmental molecular biologist, he uses numbers and the results of modern research to back up what often seems common sense – explaining why parental time and attention matter and that spanking isn’t a good idea.
It’s a great book for parents and grandparents. Toward the end, he writes: “You may think that grownups create children. The reality is that children create grownups. They become their own person, and so do you. Children give so much more than they take.”
The other book, the most unusual, is by Leanne Shapton, an illustrator I admire. I’d ordered “Swimming Studies” for my Kindle app by mistake, and read it in one Anchorage-to-Seattle sitting. Luckily, my husband got the hardback. It comes with no dust jacket, end flap material printed where endpapers might be, and an embossed bathing cap on the water-blue cover.
The book is Shapton’s memoir of her life as young swimmer training for Olympic trials, her continued fascination with water and bodies in water, and her eventual turn toward art. She’s brave and honest, and her descriptions transport – you feel the squeeze of a bathing cap, the atmosphere in a bus full of young athletes on their way to a competition, the chlorinated air of swimming pools, her elation, and her exhaustion.
Her book isn’t a sport memoir so much as a meditation on her journey (often a watery one), as Shapton figures out how her former swimming life inspires her life as an artist.
Because I’ve been thinking about people’s thoughts and plans for participating in The Workroom, it resonated when Shapton quoted “The Nuts and Bolts of Psychology for Swimmers,” by Keith Bell. He writes about training discipline, the nonnegotiable commitment to practice. Words that apply equally to working on a creative project, once you have set a goal: “It doesn’t make much sense to have to decide whether to take each individual step in a trip you have already decided to make.”
I love Shapton’s watercolor portraits of fellow swimmers, rectangles of pool water, and gallery of vintage swimsuits – in both digital and paper forms (and it was fun to compare the illustrations) – the book is a treasure!
For a wonderful while in August, the whole family was in Alaska – both sons, both wives, Lady Baby, and the grandparents. On the night the CSA arrived at Downtown Abbey, we made a quick dish with fennel.
The “Greek Fennel Skillet” recipe, from Full Circle Farm’s newsletter, called for two medium fennel bulbs and one large onion to be julienned, then sautéed over high heat in two tablespoons of olive oil. After the vegetables start to brown, add two cloves of garlic (minced) and toss together.
Then add a tablespoon of lemon juice, three medium tomatoes chopped (a treat – brought from the California garden and thoroughly enjoyed by tomato-deprived Alaskans). Lower the heat and cook till the liquid is reduced – this takes about six or eight minutes.
Add salt and pepper – then toss with a cup and a half of crumbled feta (we didn’t have this), half-cup Kalamata olives, and one-quarter cup of chopped Italian parsley. The CSA recipe suggests serving this over pasta or polenta, but we ate it as a side – easy and tasty. The next day it made great bruschetta.
Responding to CSAs in two houses challenged August – my clever friend had to bail me out one week by picking up the Washington one (and enjoying). In Alaska Mr. Carson and I worked hard to use up everything. One batch of soup was thick with kale (two bunches) – and so good.
To use up one of the two cabbage heads taking up valuable refrigerator real estate, Mr. Carson had a surprising hit with Bittman’s “Cabbage Stuffed with Lentils and Rice.“
Impressive – he made it at night – while Mrs. Hughes and I watched Olympic gymnastics and simultaneously viewed a laptop display of Russian synchronized swimmers. We thought Lady Baby would be glad if we could work up such a routine (legs in the air without the water) for her entertainment.
The next day, such a treat to know dinner is ready already – the cabbage leaves rolled around lentils and rice (stuffed like a burrito Bittman says), and then warmed up in a sauce of tomato paste and red wine.
Tasted delicious to me!
Thinking about the new venture I wrote about here, it occurred to me that what I propose is most like a workroom – a place to go for creative endeavor. Not a workshop or a studio or an office – room titles definitely designated to particular activities – but a space, virtual in this case, where we go to work, to make, to be inspired, to see what’s going on. And our workroom has colleagues with whom to share the creative process.
I like to think about what’s in a workroom – a door for sure – bookcases full of inspiration and instruction – a table and a light – tools and storage – a welcoming place. The first session of “The Workroom” is definitely a beta effort – a learning process – and I’ve loved thinking about, and planning for it.
This session will run from September 17 to October 26 and cost $60. Because there is much to be learned from more experienced participants by the not-so-experienced, the group will be limited in size but not in skill level. While some will have already discovered a way to express their lives through work on a writing or art project, others might use this time and structure to begin to learn a skill like drawing or take a skill to another level.
We’ll have our own blog for The Workroom’s virtual space and learn how to negotiate the inner workings of a blog. (The blog can live on beyond the session – as community and resource.) The idea is that participants will set up and fill individual pages within our blog – a place for each to post about goals and progress – following the familiar arc of creativity – from loose idea and initial enthusiasm to specific thoughts and steady working.
To make that journey in six weeks, it is necessary to have a project fairly quickly in mind. When my young friend was 11, she said to her mom (in response to her mom’s vague comment about “not being inspired”): “if I waited for inspiration, I’d never get anything done.” Muses can only be wooed – not forced – but they do show up when we focus, and maybe for those who aren’t sure of THE project – this period of concentration on a small part of the big task might work – a real beginning.
Please email me (email@example.com) for sign-up details or with questions, and include a little about what you hope to get from our experience. I very much look forward to hearing from you.
Here’s to September and new beginnings!